Mailvox: mind your sources

Waterboy proves to be a sucker for NFL propaganda:

Were the France-England numbers worldwide? The quote for the Super Bowl number indicates they were for the US only; do you have the worldwide estimate? Besides ex-pats and military, there is a growing following in Europe.

From the NFL: “Super Bowl XXXVII TV audience: Last year’s game was the most watched program ever with 138.9 million viewers. The 10 most-watched programs in TV history are all Super Bowls.” The NFL-Europe estimate for World Bowl XII: “World Bowl XII will reach an estimated worldwide television audience of 200 million in more than 150 [countries].”

France-England was also one of the bigger marquee games. What were the numbers for the final?

First, to correct a few misconceptions. The France-England game only featured one marquee team in TV terms, as contrary to what I would have imagined, England, Germany and Portugal were the the biggest TV draws in Euro 2004. The source for the 118 million watching the England-Portugal game was Initiative, a Nielsen-type company which tracks 52 markets. This is probably NOT a worldwide number, as UEFA has 50 members and Latvia was mentioned as one of the markets tracked. The numbers for the final are not yet available, but based on the quarterfinal numbers, Initiative predicted it would hit 150 million.

The NFL numbers are downright laughable, as I doubt that even two million people watched the World Bowl. You’ll note that the NFL says the broadcast “would reach” 200 million, which is more than the global viewers it claims for the Super Bowl. Even this latter number is questionable, as Nielson reports the following:

In 2003, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Oakland Raiders for their first Super Bowl victory averaging a 40.7 rating with 88.6 million viewers in the U.S. Worldwide the game averaged more than 97 million viewers in 22 countries.

That’s eight million more viewers with the addition of 21 countries, presumably the biggest and most important additional audiences since Nielsen is bothering to track them. That’s 380,000 viewers per additional country. And we’re supposed to believe that the other 178 countries in which the game is being televised, which aren’t important enough to be tracked, are averaging the minimum of 236,000 viewers necessary to bring the total to the claimed 139 million?

In direct country-by-country comparison, it’s easy to see that Euro 2004 games – not including the final – commanded much larger percentage of viewers in the countries involved. Furthermore, neutral viewership tended to run about half of those in the two countries involved. This is significant since the EU – which, keep in mind, is smaller than UEFA, has 380 million people to the USA’s 293.

Euro 2004

Britain: ENGLAND v PORTUGAL 24.7M/59.8M = 41.3 percent

Holland: HOLLAND v LATVIA 7.6M/15.9M = 47.8 percent

USA: NEW ENGLAND vs CAROLINA 89.6M/293M = 30.6 percent

This shows that not only the quarterfinals, but even group stage games involving minor countries were of serious interest. In 2004, viewership was up 14 percent overall, compared to the increase of 1.3 percent from the 2000 to 2004 Super Bowls. In both 2000 and 2004, neutral viewership was somewhat more than half that of the two nations involved, but still extraordinarily high.

Euro 2000 final (France v Italy)

France 21.4M/ 59.3M = 36.1 percent

Italy 21.3M / 57.7M = 36.9 percent

Germany 18.4M / 83.2M = 22.1 percent

So, one can safely conclude that EU-wide, (which does not count large extra-EU UEFA countries such as Russia and the Ukraine), the average Euro game has viewership comparable to the Super Bowl even if one leaves out the larger-than-average viewership contributed by the two nations involved. As for the big games like the semis and final, there is simply no comparison. Taking the tournament as a whole, it’s impossible to escape the conclusion that the Super Bowl and the NFL playoffs are relatively small fish by comparison.