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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

RWC 2023 was the most viewed rugby event of all time

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Rugby World Cup 2023 in France has etched its place as the most-watched rugby event in history, solidifying an impressive legacy of record-breaking achievements.

France 2023 amassed a staggering 1.33 billion viewing hours (VH) across both linear and non-linear broadcast platforms, surpassing its northern hemisphere predecessor, England 2015, by 30% (1.01 billion VH) and outpacing Japan 2019 by 19% (1.11 billion VH).

The surge in viewership for the men's Rugby World Cup underscores the tournament's widespread popularity and significance in a fiercely competitive global entertainment landscape. Despite the host nation's early exit in the quarter-finals, France secured the highest worldwide viewership with 481 million VH.

In a surprising turn, eight of the 11 surveyed markets witnessed robust growth in viewership since 2015, defying the general decline in linear TV and increased competition in the entertainment sector. The United Kingdom, in particular, nearly broke its 2015 record (361 million VH), an impressive feat considering a 27% overall decrease in linear TV viewership.

Emerging rugby markets, such as Germany (15.2 million VH), Italy (16.1 million VH), and the USA (11.1 million VH), showcased remarkable growth with increases of 27%, 70%, and 136%, respectively, compared to RWC 2015.

The pinnacle of viewership was reached during the RWC final between South Africa and New Zealand, accumulating a record-breaking 94 million VH globally. The France vs. South Africa quarter-final closely followed with 69 million VH.

A GLOBAL SPECTACLE ACCESSIBLE TO ALL
In alignment with its goal to make rugby accessible worldwide, World Rugby collaborated with free-to-air broadcast partners across most markets, resulting in 85% of France 2023's global viewership coming from free-to-air TV.

The top 10 performing channels were all free-to-air, with TF1 and ITV1 leading in European markets, amassing 322 million and 295 million viewing hours, respectively. TF1 has already renewed its partnership with World Rugby and will broadcast the Women's Rugby World Cup 2025.

Streaming services continued to gain prominence, with ITVX, the British broadcaster's streaming platform, ranking as the eighth most viewed channel during RWC 2023, securing 27 million VH. Overall, 70 million VH were attributed to online streaming services. The international federation's OTT platform, RugbyPass TV, attracted 350,000 subscribers and 1.7 million users during the tournament.

JAPAN 2019 LEGACY AND TIME ZONE IMPACT
The legacy of RWC 2019 in Asia remains palpable, with Japan ranking as the third-highest country in viewership for RWC 2023, accumulating 175.9 million VH over seven weeks. Although a decline from 2019, these figures represent a remarkable 221% increase from England 2015, illustrating the enduring impact of a home Rugby World Cup and the sport's growth in the region.

Despite an unfavorable time zone, with two pool fixtures in the middle of the night, 86% of Japanese viewership came from live programming, showcasing the significant appetite for rugby in this crucial market. Japan's domestic broadcaster featured the most viewed matches, with two national team pool games achieving 33 million viewing hours each, thanks to more accessible kick-off times at 19:45.

World Rugby Chief Executive Alan Gilpin expressed his delight, stating, "Rugby World Cup 2023 has been a fantastic tournament on and off the field." He emphasized the sport's continuous growth and the organization's commitment to collaborating with broadcast partners to enhance the viewing experience for new audiences, aiming to make rugby a truly global sport. The comprehensive reporting of Rugby World Cup 2023 broadcast audiences was conducted by Futures Sport+Entertainment, a member of Interpublic Group, a leading research agency in the sports and entertainment domain.
[Submitted by Kevin Rademeyer]

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