Euro 2012 Ratings Strong as Quarterfinals Begin

Audience numbers for the group stages of the Euro soccer tournament hit record levels in Spain, France and England.

COLOGNE, Germany – The eight teams remaining in the Euro 2012 soccer championships – Germany, Greece, Portugal, Spain, France, England, Italy and the Czech Republic – square off in the quarter finals, which started Thursday night with Portugal beating the Czechs, to see who is the best in Europe. Meanwhile, across the continent, European broadcasters are chasing another trophy: the ratings record for the largest television audience.

The high-water mark is the final match of Euro 2008 between Spain and Germany, which was seen by 14.5 million Spaniards on the Cuatro networks and 29.5 million Germans on public broadcaster ZDF, both records in the respective territories for the pan-European sports tournament. The 2008 final also broke audience records in, among other countries, France Italy, the Netherlands and Poland. Worldwide, according to European soccer governing body UEFA, 237 million people watched the Euro 2008 final, a figure that puts the event near the level of a Summer Olympics opening ceremony.

With just over a week left in the 2012 competition, the prospects of beating Euro 2008’s viewership figures look good.

Consider some of the ratings highlights:

-    In Spain, commercial network Telecinco posted the most watched moment in the history of Spanish television when 18.14 million Spaniards, a 78.2 percent share, tuned in for the final moments of Monday night’s Spain vs. Croatia match to watch their squad, squeak into the quarterfinals with a 0-1 victory. The figure even topped peak viewing for the Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010 finals, both of which Spain won, though average viewing figures were higher for both games than for the Euro 2012 qualifying match.

-    27.65 million German fans, 74.2 percent of the audience watched on ARD as their team advanced with a 1-2 victory over Denmark. The actually number watching was even higher. A survey by research institute Infratest dimap, carried out on behalf of ARD, found that around 6 million more watched the match in pubs, beer gardens and similar public viewing spots around the country. On average, 13.3 million viewers watched each of the 20 first round Euro 2012 games broadcast live on German TV, a 47.8 percent market share. That puts this tournament slightly behind Euro 2008, where an average of 13.68 million or 50.8 percent tuned in for each opening round match.

-    A peak audience of 21.2 million Italians on Monday watched the Azzurro beat Ireland 2-0 to qualify for the quarter finals. The average viewership for the group stage matches was 7.1 million and a 34.1 percent share, down slightly from the 7.6 million/38 percent share seen during the same period in Euro 2008. But state broadcaster RAI said the 2012 figures are actually better, since two of the Italian squad’s games this year were played in the afternoon and only one in primetime. At Euro 2008, the Italian team had two primetime matches.

-    France’s M6 had its second best-ever ratings - close to 12.2 million viewers and 44.5% market share –for Tuesday’s France v Sweden match, which saw France advance to the quarter finals despite losing to Sweden 0-2.

-    7.99 million Dutch, 59.2 percent of the country’s entire population older than 6, watched Oranje get knocked out in its final group match against Portugal 1-2.

-    ITV’s broadcast of England’s 1-0 win over Ukraine Tuesday night drew a peak audience of 18.6million (a 64% share), making it the most-watched program of the year so far in the U.K., beating out the BBC’s coverage of Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee celebrations. ITV’s average viewership for the Euro 2012 to date is 6.4 million/31 percent share, compared to 4 million/22 percent on average for the group stage games in Euro 2008.

-    Russia’s Channel One grabbed 12.8 million viewers, a 39.5 percent share for the national team’s 1-1 draw with Poland last week. 

-    The top Euro 2012 program on Ireland’s RTE was the Ireland v Croatia game last Sunday, which earned a 67.7 percent share with an average of 1.24 million viewers.

-    2.38 million Danes, a 77 percent share of the viewing audience, watched the country’s 1-2 defeat to Germany, which eliminated the Danish team from competition. Over the entire tournament so far, an average of 820,000, a 40 percent audience share, have tuned in to the Euro 2012 matches.

UEFA would not give its own estimate of worldwide audience figures, though before the tournament, it forecast a live audience of more than 150 million for each Euro 2012 match. ESPN, which is broadcasting the Euros in the U.S., said ratings for the group stages of the tournament were up 82 percent on similar figures for 2008.

But whether the Euro 2012 final on July 1 beats the 2008 ratings record or not, UEFA is set to reap the biggest financial rewards of the tournament. The Euro 2012 is expected to earn UEFA about $51.6 million a match for the 31 game tournament, compared to the average of $56.7 million international soccer body FIFA earned per game of the 64-match World Cup in South Africa in 2010.

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

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