World Cup: Japan's Opening Match Logs Record Ratings

Associated Press
Around half of Japan was watching the country's team in the World Cup on Sunday morning.

The Samurai Blue's defeat by the Ivory Coast was the most-watched World Cup game with a morning start time in Japan, with hundreds of thousands more at screenings in bars, restaurants and stadiums.

TOKYO – The 46.6 percent viewing figures for Japan's game against Ivory Coast in the FIFA World Cup, shown on public broadcaster NHK at 10 a.m. Sunday, are the highest recorded for a morning kickoff.

Viewing peaked at 50.8 percent in the second half, according to figures by Video Research Inc., by which time Japan had given up its early lead via two headed goals from its African opponents.  

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The all-time Japanese TV audience record for a World Cup game is 66.1 percent for the game against Russia in 2002, when Japan co-hosted the tournament with South Korea.  

Japan's game against Paraguay at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, which marked only the second time it had progressed beyond the group stage, pulled in 57.3 percent of viewers. 

TV ratings will have taken something of a hit from the growing trend of going out to watch Japan's games at bars, restaurants and pubs, along with public viewings at stadiums, a relatively recent phenomenon.

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Tokyo Dome, home to the Yomiuri Giants baseball team, hosted around 35,000 fans to watch the game on a huge screen. Nearly 12,000 fans made their way to the Nissan Stadium in Yokohama, venue of the 2002 World Cup final between Brazil and Germany, to cheer on the Samurai Blue, with screenings also taking place at other soccer stadiums.

NHK is using the tournament to showcase its 8K Super-Hi Vision, and held public viewings of the game in the ultra-high-definition format at venues in Tokyo and Yokohama.

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Japan's next game, against Greece, will be on at the less viewer-friendly time of 7 a.m. Friday.

Twitter: @GavinJBlair