A combined total of nearly 1.5 billion TV viewers watched the 2002 FIFA World Cup in the 18 markets measured by Nielsen Media Research, according to the final audience estimates.
Thailand, with a combined total of 269 million World Cup viewers for the entire tournament, took the top spot among countries measured by Nielsen Media Research, narrowly beating out South Korea (266 million viewers) and China (263 million viewers) for the largest total audience for all World Cup matches, combined, in a single country.
Although South Korea finished second in total gross audience, it was the clear ratings winner for the tournament, capturing an average 16% of the potential audience for all matches. South Korea’s interest in the World Cup was driven both by its status as a host nation, and by the success of its national team.
From the very start of the tournament, it was apparent that South Koreans had caught World Cup fever. More than 14 million people, or 56% of the potential audience in South Korea, tuned in to watch their national team defeat Poland, 2-0, at Busan, South Korea, on June 4 – by far the largest combined audience to watch a World Cup match in a single country. The match was the first played by South Korea in the 2002 World Cup.
As South Korea advanced to the semifinal round, the team became one of the biggest draws for World Cup TV viewers across all Nielsen markets. In fact, more than 52 million people watched Germany defeat South Korea, 1-0, during semifinal action from Seoul, South Korea, June 25 – the second-largest audience overall for a single match. In all, South Korea appeared in five of the 10 most-watched matches for the tournament.
The most-watched match was the Final on June 30 from Yokohama, Japan. Nearly 63 million people saw Brazil defeat Germany, 2-0, to take the World Cup title. In 12 of the 18 countries measured by Nielsen, the June 30 Final was the most-watched match of the tournament.
In the United States, a gross audience of more than 85 million TV viewers, or an average of 1.3 million per match, watched the World Cup. The largest U.S. audience for a single match was the nearly seven million viewers, combined for all telecasts, who watched Germany defeat USA, 1-0, in the quarterfinal round at Ulsan, South Korea, June 21. That game was broadcast live on ESPN, and replayed later that day on ABC.
World Cup Draws Large Hispanic Audiences in the U.S.
Among Hispanic viewers in the U.S., the June 17 match between the USA and Mexico at Jeonju, South Korea, drew the largest audience – nearly 4.5 million people, or 13% of the potential audience – for a single game. The match, won by the USA, 2-0, was telecast live on Univision at 2:30 a.m., and rebroadcast by Telefutura at 10:00 a.m. The June 9 Ecuador-Mexico match drew the second-highest U.S. Hispanic audience (4.3 million viewers, or 12% of the potential audience) and the June 30 Final between Brazil and Germany drew the third-largest audience (3.4 million, or 10%).
In all, the entire World Cup attracted nearly 80 million Hispanic viewers in the U.S., or an average of 1.2 million per match, for an average rating of 4%. Nielsen Media Research tracks Hispanic audiences separately from overall U.S. audiences.
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