20 million Brits caught the English team’s win over Sweden on Saturday, while a record 16 million French fans saw Les Bleus brush past Uruguay.
As Russia 2018 heads into its final days, there is no sign of World Cup fever abating, with television coverage of the weekend’s quarterfinals drawing massive audiences across Europe.
England, which is daring to dream of a second World Cup following the legendary 1966 tournament, has gone certifiably soccer mad, with the nation shutting down with its Three Lions team on the pitch. A total of 19.64 million British viewers, or 87.7 percent of the total TV audience, caught England’s easy 2-0 victory over Sweden on Saturday afternoon on the BBC, with another 3.8 million streaming the match live on iPlayer and the BBC Sport web site, making the game the most-viewed live program on record.
And even those figures likely underestimate the total viewership, as they don’t account for fans who watched in pubs and outdoor screening events across the country. One estimate by the British Beer and Pub Association said at least 3.5 million watched England’s victory in one of the country’s 40,000 pubs.
Across the channel in France, the 2-0 triumph of Les Bleus over a tough Uruguay side scored another ratings high for national network TF1. An average of 12.9 million viewers caught the match on the broadcast network on Friday, with a peak audience of 16.1 million, for a 76 percent share. That makes the match the most-watched program of the year so far in France, a record sure to tumble on Tuesday, when France takes on Belgium in the first semifinal match. In another record, 1.9 million viewers streamed the game live on the MyTF1 web site.
Even for neutrals, the World Cup continues to be a ratings draw. More than 14 million viewers, a 53.3 percent share, caught Saturday’s Russia versus Croatia quarterfinal on German public broadcaster ZDF, and Friday’s Brazil versus Belgium match, which ended with a 2-1 Belgian win, drew a 47.3 percent share of the audience for Telecinco in Spain.
With only European teams left in the running, the final of the 2018 World Cup might struggle to match the global audience of the 2014 final between Germany and Argentina, which drew a record 1.01 billion viewers worldwide. But overall, ratings for Russia 2018 have more than met expectations and, in Europe at least, look likely to continue to reach new heights.
Rhonda Richford in Paris contributed to this report.