The global television audience for this year's FIFA World Cup in Brazil looks to have been marginally higher than that for the 2010 tournament in South Africa, an expert has told insidethegames.
Kevin Alavy, managing director - mediabrands at Futures Sport+Entertainment, a United States-based sports research consultancy, said the global audience for Brazil 2014 was "up slightly" on South Africa 2010.
Alavy's comments in a telephone briefing on the eve of sports media specialists gathering here for the 25th Sportel Monaco convention, appear to square well with what FIFA's director of TV Niclas Ericson has already intimated to insidethegames.
"We are optimistic it will be higher than 2010," Ericson said, adding: "We had very, very good figures across the Americas and Europe, and we are encouraged by what we saw in Asia."
Given that the average in-home global audience for each live match during the 2010 World Cup was 188.4 million, an increase of 6 percent from 2006, Alavy's unofficial assessment suggests that Brazil 2014 may come close to breaking through the 200 million barrier.
You might not think that a small audience increase was much of an achievement, not least since the world population will have continued to grow in the intervening four years.
According to Alavy, however, "if you look at most sporting events, they tend to lose viewers over time" - a phenomenon he attributes to fragmentation as a result of proliferation of both content and devices.
Other events, he said, "could easily lose 20-40 per cent of viewership over four years".
Because of the time difference, an event in the Americas is not generally conducive to big audiences in Asia, and Alavy confirmed that playing the World Cup in Brazil had "a very large negative impact on viewing figures in East Asia".
Host nation Brazil, the second-biggest market - behind China - for audience reach in 2010, stepped into the breach, however: Alavy said it was "the number one country by a large margin".
The Brazilian time-zone worked well in Europe, especially in countries, like the UK and Portugal, on the continent's western fringes.
In spite of England's failure to win a single 2014 World Cup game, Alavy said that UK numbers were up compared to 2010, when the average live match audience was 5.3 million and the peak match audience was 17.9 million.
Encouragingly for FIFA, Alavy also pointed to a "double-digit" increase in the World Cup audience in Russia, the 2018 tournament host.
The US, where audience reach rose 19 per cent from 2006 to 2010, was a further bright spot, as the nation, headed by President Barack Obama, appeared to respond to the backs-to-the-wall heroics of the American team in their successful efforts to qualify from an exceptionally tough group.
FIFA has already disclosed that an audience of 11.1 million watched the thrilling US versus Ghana clash on ESPN, with a further 4.8 million viewing Univisión's Spanish coverage in the US.
Said Alavy: "It becomes bigger and bigger with each World Cup that passes."
With in-home viewer reach in the US put at 94.5 million for the 2010 tournament, it seems likely that this measure will have exceeded 100 million for Brazil 2014.
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