Soccer lifts German pubcasters to ratings win

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COLOGNE, Germany -- Germany's public broadcasters scored a ratings victory over commercial rivals in 2006 thanks to the soccer World Cup.

According to official ratings figures announced Thursday by the GfK agency, pubcaster ARD was Germany's most popular channel for the year (through Dec. 27), with an average 14.3% market share, a jump of 0.8% from 2005.

ARD sister channel ZDF took the No. 2 slot with a 13.6% total market share, an increase of 0.1% over the previous year.

The World Cup, which Germany hosted this summer, helped push the pubcasters over the top. The July 4 semifinal game between Germany and Italy drew the largest-ever audience in German history for ZDF. 29.7 million viewers, or 84.1% of the total audience, tuned in to watch the home team go down 2-0 in the final minutes.

ARD scored the second-largest audience rating in German history for the July 9 World Cup final, with 25.9 million viewers, or 72.3% of the total audience, tuning in to watch Italy beat France in penalties.

German commercial channels suffered under the soccer onslaught. Cologne-based RTL slipped 0.4% in the overall ratings with a 12.8% average audience share in 2006. Sat.1 in Berlin was down 1.1% compared with last year at 9.8% and Munich-based ProSieben slipped 0.1% to 6.6%.

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