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Soccer Surges as Global TV Audiences Decline

Television audiences worldwide are splintering, as people prefer spending more time with Internet-enabled devices than curling up in front of the boob tube to watch primetime. However, soccer bucks that trend big-time, especially for international games, which continue to grow their audience thanks to greater demand and expanded television coverage. Because of this, the Financial Times says this weekend's Euro 2008 qualifiers figure to be one the biggest advertising bonanzas of the year for the media companies that show them.

Which markets draw the biggest audiences? As a proportion of total population, the Dutch win-45 percent of the population watched the national team during the last World Cup. Initiative Sports Futures, a company that measures TV audiences, attributes this to the tiny nation's homogeneity. Other homogeneous nations with small populations like Croatia, Denmark and Sweden also draw significant percentages. England, meanwhile, sits in "mid-table mediocrity" by the same measure, largely because its people tend to view soccer a working-class sport. Also, the English are disproportionately interested in their team, like the Italians. The Spanish, however, aren't even interested in their own team; ISF says this is because its citizens identify more closely with the region in which they live. France, once indifferent to the world's game, has seen a huge upsurge in interest: the top nine television audiences in 2006 were for national team games. Outside Europe, South American audiences are biggest (unsurprisingly), while those the markets in Asia and the U.S. are growing.

Read the whole story at Financial Times »

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