Euro Soccer Championships Rule European TV Ratings

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COLOGNE, Germany -- The European Soccer Championships dominated television ratings from Barcelona to Berlin and Rome to Rotterdam this weekend as the monthlong tournament kicked off.

To say that soccer dominated European TV this weekend would be putting it mildly. Ratings for matches featuring the national side drew audience shares of 60-80 percent in their respective territories. The all-out ratings winner was the Dutch broadcast of Saturday’s match between the Netherlands and Denmark, which 6.8 million viewers -- an 87 percent share -- tuned into on local public broadcaster NOS. In Denmark, nearly 1.5 million viewers, a 76 percent share, watched their team beat the favored Dutch 1-0 on Danish network TV2.

Ireland's 1-3 defeat to Croatia Sunday night was the most-watched sports event in the Republic of Ireland since the 1994 World Cup. A total of 2.03 million people, or nearly half the country's total population, tuned in at some point during the course of the game and an average of 1.24 million watched RTE's entire 2 1/2 hour coverage, including pre- and post-match analysis.

Europe’s biggest countries provided the biggest audiences, led by Germany, which peaked with 22.3 million, or 69 percent of the audience, watching the home side defeat Portugal in the second match of Group B on Saturday. German pubweb ARD, which aired the match, drew an impressive 9.3 million viewers in the key 14-49 demographic for a 74 percent share. And 14.4 million viewers, a 71 percent share, tuned in to Italian free and pay-TV channels to watch the Azzuri squad draw 1-1 with defending European and world champion Spain on Sunday night. In Spain, Telecinco’s airing of the match snagged a 60 percent share with 10.2 million viewers tuning in.

Soccer was a big even if the national side wasn’t competing: 13.5 million German viewers tuned into ZDF’s broadcast the Spain-Italy match, a 53 percent share, while just over 9 million Brits watched the same game on ITV in the U.K., a 40 percent market share. Even Germany vs. Portugal was a major draw, winning the night for France’s TF1 with 6 million viewers and a 27 percent share.

But viewing figures in England and France likely will spike Monday evening, when the two national sides face off in their opening Euro 2012 match.

The actual viewing figures for the Euro 2012 games are likely substantially higher, as ratings information does not include viewers watching in the numerous pubs, restaurants and outdoor venues across Europe that screen the matches during the tournament.

In one of the more interesting efforts to bring soccer to the Euro masses, cinema-sized screens were set up in the tent cities being used by earthquake victims in Italy's Emilia Romagna region, and thousands watched the games there.

Eric J. Lyman in Rome, Pamela Rolfe in Madrid, Georg Szalai in London and Rebecca Leffler in Paris contributed to this report.

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