World Cup organisers hail “spectacular” television numbers

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FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union – Rugby World Cup 2023 – Pool A – France v New Zealand – Stade de France, Saint-Denis, France – September 8, 2023 Patrouille de France are pictured flying over the stadium during the opening ceremony before the match REUTERS/Christian Hartmann/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) – Rugby World Cup organisers have welcomed impressive domestic and international television audiences that far exceed previous editions as the tournament reaches the one-third point of its 48 matches.

In an upbeat Paris press conference on Wednesday, when the night’s Italy v Uruguay will be the 17th match to be played, Jacques Rivoal, President of France 2023, said: “There’s excitement everywhere — in the stadiums and TV screens.

“Everywhere, we’re exploding the benchmarks that were set in Japan in 2019 and in England in 2015, sometimes 30 to 40% more.”

An average of 11.5 million people in France watched last week’s France v Uruguay match — 60% higher than the most-watched Six Nations game this year in France. Around 15 million watched the tournament’s opening game between France and New Zealand, with a peak of 17 million. Only the 2011 final between the same teams has had a higher audience.

“It’s practically on a par with the World Cup (soccer) final in Qatar between France and Argentina,” Rivoal said. “These figures are quite spectacular. We hadn’t anticipated such figures and we can only be delighted.”

Despite a “challenging kick-off time” of 1300 local (1100 GMT), Japan’s opening game against Chile drew a Japanese TV audience of 13.8 million — 15% more than watched their opening game against Russia in 2019 and higher than Japan’s second game against Ireland four years ago.

Rivoal said that 3.5 million watched the opening match in Germany – more than all the World Cup matches in 2019 broadcast on German channels.

“There have been more than 500 million views of our official content on our social platform, which is amazing,” said tournament director Michel Poussau.

On the commercial front, more France jerseys have been sold so far than Japan jerseys in the whole of 2019 — though that might have something to do with the fact that the shelves in Tokyo’s shops were virtually bare after the first week as organisers were woefully under-supplied with shirts, particularly those of the host nation.

Following the access issues in Marseille and Bordeaux that dogged the opening weekend, questions were asked about long delays faced by thousands of fans leaving the Stade de Nice, served by a single tram stop, and by cancelled media shuttle services.

Organisers brushed off such concerns, however, saying the Nice transport operation had “worked perfectly”.

(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Clare Fallon)