Asian Cup Soccer Final Scores 40% Audience in Japan

Viewers far lower down under, hit by the time difference and its broadcast on Fox Sports pay TV.


TOKYO -- Viewing figures for Japan's win over Australia in the final of the Asian Cup soccer tournament on Saturday night topped 40 percent in the land of the victors, but were far lower down under, hit by the time difference and its broadcast on Fox Sports pay TV.

With a 2 a.m. kick-off for the east coast of Australia, the broadcast averaged only 103,000 viewers, compared to 1.67 million for the Australian Open women's tennis final between Li Na and Kim Clijsters, earlier on Saturday night on free-to-air TV.

The final, shown live from Doha in Qatar, was shown in Japan from midnight on Asahi TV and public broadcaster NHK's BS 1 satellite pay channel. The Asahi broadcast averaged 33.1 percent in Tokyo and 33.5 percent in Osaka, according to figures from Video Research Ltd. Viewership peaked at 37.5 percent in Tokyo and 39.5 percent in Osaka. Figures for BS1 averaged 6 percent, but peaked at 2.54 a.m. after the game had finished at 8.4 percent, for the championship ceremony.

"We imagine the reason it peaked at such a time is that TV Asahi's coverage program had finished, so people switched over to BS1 to watch the ceremony, because Japan had won," an NHK spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter.

TV Asahi's program finished before the trophy was presented because the proceedings had overrun due to an extra period of play, and unexplained delays afterwards.

With the game still 0-0 at the end of 90 minutes, it went to extra time, eventually sealed by a spectacular volley from Japanese substitute Tadanari Lee. There were then a series of delays before the MVP award -- won by Japan's Keisuke Honda -- and the championship trophy were handed out.

Organizers Qatar -- who controversially won the rights to host the 2022 World Cup -- drew further criticism after ticket-holding fans were locked out of the final. It has been alleged that faced with the embarrassment of largely empty stadiums during the Asian Cup tournament, immigrant workers were bussed in to fill the stands for the final, leaving some ticket holders unable to gain entrance.

NHK is to rebroadcast Japan's quarter final, semi-final and the final on Feb. 1, 2 and 3.

Pip Bulbeck contributed to this report from Sydney.