According to CSM Media Research/Kantar Sport data, on average for every minute 8 million Chinese were watching Portugal vs France, and a total of 14 million unique viewers saw part of the game which was held between 3 am and 5:30 am on Monday morning.
The TV audience of the final game was very much in line with the previous Euro finals. These numbers are not big due to the time zone difference and the absence of teams favoured by Chinese, but they are still very reasonable. Our data showed that 50% of all TV viewers were on CCTV-5, the others were on Beijing TV, Shanghai TV, Guangdong TV, etc.
Though 14 million accounted for only 1% of total available TV audiences in China, it was still a massive number. It’s a way to know how many real hard-core football fans China has in store: around 14 million people.
Overall Euro 2016 enjoyed higher audiences than previous tournaments, essentially thanks to the changes in the format with more games and, more importantly, games aired nearly in prime-time China time (9 pm -11 pm). In the previous Euros, games were only aired at midnight and 3 am, very tough timeslots (especially 3 am) even for hard-core Chinese fans.
Our data showed the biggest audiences in China were all for the nine live games aired at 9 pm.
England vs Wales tops the list of the most watched games, slightly ahead of France vs Ireland and Belgium vs Ireland. With average TV audiences in the range of 12-15 million per minute and more than 50 million viewers watching at least part of each of these games, the results were very satisfactory.
However, England vs Wales was just short of viewers to surpass existing top two most watched sports events of 2016 so far: the ITTF World Championships Team final Japan vs China (men), and the 5th game of the local league CBA Grand Final 2016 – both very close with over 22 million audiences per minute and 70 million unique audiences. Both games started at 7:30 pm right in China ‘’prime-time’’ while 9 pm is a kind of “late prime-time”. Had the Euro games started an hour earlier (China time 8 pm), it would have been perfect and audience numbers would have been even higher.
For the midnight and night games, viewers were not as numerous: there were two times less viewers on average at 3 am compared to midnight, and two times less for midnight games compared to 9 pm games. But the interesting thing was the selection of the games with teams attracting clearly more attention. For instance, the ¼ final Germany vs Italy had twice as many viewers as the other three ¼ finals, despite the same start time. It clearly showed which teams had the reputation to convince more Chinese to wake up at 3 am.
Before the competition, we conducted a survey of football fans in China. Results showed that Chinese planned to cheer for Germany, England, Spain and Italy with Germany the overwhelming favourite for the title. It’s interesting to notice that less 3% of Chinese football fans mentioned Portugal as the Euro winner! We can’t blame them on that: how many Europeans thought Portugal would win….outside of Portugal?
In the end, Euro 2016 was a TV success in China: more games were shown, more viewers than ever before watched the Euro and in the end, with the ‘’surprising’’ win of Portugal (as well as the surprises of teams like Iceland and Wales). It may have convinced Chinese that it’s not always the favourite teams who win. Now just two months before starting the last campaign to qualify for the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018, Chinese football fans can hope that Team China – the underdog of Asia - can do as Portugal did and in that case, win its place in Russia in 2018. Let’s see.
Source: CSM, Kantar Media