2018 Football World Cup: a well-orchestrated TV victory

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When the French team stormed to victory in the 2018 Football World Cup, it was a fever-pitch moment in France that saw television channels once again achieving record audience figures.

During the months leading up to the tournament, they had nurtured these audiences with dedicated programmes on all screens. Feedback on a success story


Increasing popularity

This year, hardly anyone managed to escape football completely: no fewer than 51.5 million people in France watched the 2018 World Cup, which is almost nine out of 10 French people (88%). A tidal wave! Médiamétrie also measured almost 9 million viewers, on average, across the entire tournament, with a peak of 22 million in the closing minutes of the final – audiences that dreams are made of.

While the French threw themselves behind the event and their team, these figures were certainly boosted by the prowess of Mbappé, Varane, Griezmann and their teammates, but also thanks to TV channels and radio stations enriching their football-related offering from springtime onwards. Preparation was intense, and not only for the players! Firstly, with the trailers shown on the TF1 Group stations from March. The first trailers were shown on 6 March and then one each day from May, until there were 24 of them on 13 June.

In June, just before the tournament kicked off, broadcasters played the nostalgia card by showing programmes and documentaries revisiting the euphoric victory of 1998. Between 1 and 14 June 2018, TF1 devoted 7 hours and 27 minutes of programmes to football, in particular showing the documentaries “98, secrets d’une victoire” [98, secrets of a victory] and “Le match de légende” [The legendary match], etc. France 2 showed the documentaries “12 juillet 1998, le jour parfait” [12 July 1998, the perfect day], “France 98 : nous nous sommes tant aimés” [France 98: we all loved each other so much] and the game show “Tout le monde joue avec le football” [Everyone plays with football], representing 4 hours and 21 minutes of programmes in total, some of which were shown again on France 4. Arte showed “La Coupe du Monde des Espions” [Spies’ World Cup] and W9 showed “Minute par minute, France 98 le sacre d’une nation” [Minute by minute: France 98, the crowning of a nation]. In total, 19 million viewers watched these programmes.


A huge TV and digital offering

TF1, the only free broadcaster, broadcast 28 matches, like it did in 2014 for the World Cup in Brazil. beIN SPORTS broadcast all 64 matches in full, 36 of them exclusively.

But that’s not all! As well as the broadcasts, TF1 showed “Le Mag de la Coupe du Monde” [World Cup magazine show] each evening and the “Téléfoot” football special each Sunday, as well as major coverage on the 1pm and 8pm television news (with the evening news brought forward to 7.15pm on match days). The Group’s internet sites and channels also altered their schedules in line with the tournament: the programme called Quotidien [Daily] on TMC, Téléfoot la Quotidienne” [TV football daily] on TFX each evening; the myTF1 website was entirely devoted to the tournament, and finally the virtual reality app myTF1 VR, which allows users to watch a match with a 180° view as if they were an actual spectator in a box seat.

The programme was also very important on beIN SPORTS, with two channels dedicated 24 hours a day to the event, six daily magazine shows and the digital version.

Finally, these channels stepped-up their presence on social networks with each having a Twitter account dedicated to the tournament.

The channel L’Equipe devoted the “L’Equipe du soir” [L’Equipe in the evening] magazine show to the World Cup, both before and after the matches. “L’Equipe du soir - la mi-temps” [L’Equipe in the evening - half time] attracted 726,000 viewers on average during the French team’s matches.

Digital offered many options for watching the matches on other screens: MYTF1, Molotov, myCANAL, beIN SPORTS. This was a particularly useful option since the majority of the French team’s matches this year were shown in the afternoon (six during the day and one during prime time). On average, internet screens generated a 3% additional audience to the TV audience. This increased to 6% for the Uruguay vs. France match – shown on Friday 6 July at 4pm (i.e. a weekday) – which attracted the most viewers on the internet: 736,000 viewers watched it online, either on a computer, smartphone or tablet. 534,000 watched the final, which was shown at 5pm, and 503,000 watched the France vs. Denmark match on Thursday 26 June at 4pm.

The 28 matches shown on the MYTF1 and Molotov players represent 13.4 million hours viewed live: over half on a computer (58%), a third on a mobile phone and 10% on a tablet. 13.4 million viewing hours is how much is normally consumed over an entire month for all of the TF1 Group channels (an average month in 2017).

As would be expected for a sporting event with such high stakes, viewers primarily watched matches live on the internet, even though catch-up is usually dominant.


The French team, pulling in audiences

The extraordinary journey to victory of Didier Deschamps’ team is key to explaining the record audiences watching this year’s World Cup. With 8.7 million viewers on average, the 2018 tournament is the second best since 1998, which is primarily due to the French team's performance. It is just behind the 2014 World Cup in Brazil (9 million viewers on average), which was more favourable in terms of the time difference because the matches were primarily shown during prime time.

As the tournament went on, the audience watching the French team increased: while the pool stages were watched by 10.7 million viewers on average (15.8 million in 2014), this figure increased to 14.9 million for the eighth-, quarter- and semi-finals (16.5 million in 2014) and 19.4 million for the final. So, the French team’s matches accounted for over a third (36.8%) of the tournament's audience whereas they made up a quarter of the matches shown. Daytime matches made the biggest contribution to the audience figures.

Other countries’ matches also made this World Cup one of the best ever. Indeed, the further the French team progressed through the tournament, the more interest the public took in its potential adversaries. So 6.4 million viewers watched the group stage matches (6.5 million in 2014) and 8.3 million watched the eighth-, quarter- and semi-finals (8.1 million in 2014).

Although the majority of the tournament’s audience were male (59%), this was lower than the gender norms (69% on average for non-World Cup football matches this year). Women’s attentiveness to the tournament increased as the Blues progressed further through the stages. One societal phenomenon borne out over the course of this year’s tournament is football’s increasing popularity amongst young female generations: the 15-34 year old female audience share is growing ever closer to that of men for each tournament.

With France victorious, broadcasters went out of their way to ride the wave of the World Cup effect in the days – and even weeks – following the tournament. The special editions on the day after the victory devoted to the French team’s homecoming – 5h42 live on TF1, 4h53 on France 2, 3h32 on M6 – were a resounding success. TF1 recorded 4.2 million viewers on average. This channel also achieved its best 8pm TV news of the year on this day, with 8.4 million viewers. This enthusiasm continued until the end of July, kept alive by the euphoric victory revisited in documentaries: “Les Bleus 2018 : au cœur de l’épopée russe” [The Blues 2018: at the heart of the Russian epic] on TF1, “1998, 2018 : merci” [1998, 2018: thank you] on France 2, “Le Paris des Bleus” [The Blues’ Paris] and “Champions du Monde, La France en fête” [World champions, France celebrates] on M6, as well as documentaries about 1998 on several channels. Between 16 and 23 July, there were 15h40 of programmes on TF1, 11h16 on France 2, 6h26 on M6 and 4h17 on TMC. In August and September, the documentaries shown on C8 generated 4h45 of airtime. In total, 35 million viewers watched at least one of these programmes.

The Football World Cup is an indispensable event for television which, although it represents an extremely significant investment, is spread out over time and across all media devices. This means that it generates publicity and branding proportionate to the country’s fervour for this sport and its team.


The Football World Cup from an international perspective

The final ranked as the 2nd best sports audience of the year in South Africa with 6.8 million viewers and a 44.1% audience share.

In Russia, the tournament generated nine of the 10 best sports audiences and 11.3 million viewers watched the final, giving a 53.9% audience share.

India was fortunate enough to be able to watch the match during prime time: 16 million people watched it there.

In the UK, the World Cup final overshadowed the Wimbledon final – the country’s key sporting event; jointly broadcast by BBC1 and ITV, it attracted 8.6 million viewers on BBC1 (a 48.3% audience share) and 2.4 million on ITV (a 13.7% audience share). On both channels, the match achieved a peak audience of 13.8 million viewers at 5.52pm, at the end of the match.

The Serbian public preferred the final of the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament, in which Novak Djokovic was pitted against Kevin Anderson, to the first half of the final: 970,000 viewers supported the Serbian tennis player, with the match achieving a 41.8% audience share. But once the tennis match was over, 1.7 million of them (a 66.1% market share) tuned in to watch the second half of the football final.


Laure Osmanian Molinero

Confidence interval calculus

Sample size or target in the sample

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Proportion observed in the sample or on a target in the sample

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Warning: only applies to a proportion. The Average Rate is an average of proportions and the Audience Share a ratio of proportions. This tool is provided for information purposes. It cannot be applied for professional purposes without further precautions.

Test of significance of the differences between two proportions

Used to assess whether the difference between 2 proportions is significant at the 95% threshold


Sample size

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2nd sample


Warning: only applies to a proportion. The Average Rate is an average of proportions and the Audience Share a ratio of proportions. This tool is provided for information purposes. It cannot be applied for professional purposes without further precautions.

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