Rugby World Cup 2023 rewrites history as most viewed sporting event


The Rugby World Cup 2023 held in France has etched its name in history as the most viewed rugby event of all time.

South Africa’s Springboks narrowly edged out New Zealand 12-11 to to become the only nation to win a fourth world cup title.

The tournament’s record-breaking legacy is now solidified with an astounding 1.33 billion viewing hours (VH) across all programming on linear and non-linear broadcasts, surpassing the previous benchmarks set by England in 2015 and Japan in 2019.

France 2023’s remarkable achievement showcases a 30% increase in viewership compared to the last Rugby World Cup in the northern hemisphere, England 2015, which garnered 1.01 billion VH. Additionally, it outshone the Japan 2019 edition by 19%, reaching 1.11 billion VH.

The surge in men’s Rugby World Cup viewership underscores the tournament’s enduring popularity and relevance in the fiercely competitive global entertainment market.

Despite the host nation’s national team bowing out in the quarter-finals, France 2023 recorded the highest viewership worldwide, amassing a staggering 481 million VH.

This achievement is a testament to the tournament’s ability to captivate audiences and transcend boundaries, creating a shared passion for the sport.

Surprisingly, despite a general decline in linear TV globally, eight out of the eleven surveyed markets witnessed substantial growth in viewership since 2015.

The United Kingdom came close to breaking its 2015 record with 361 million VH, an impressive feat considering the overall linear TV viewership in the UK decreased by 27% over the same period.

Rugby’s popularity has also surged in emerging markets, with Germany (15.2 million VH), Italy (16.1 million VH), and the USA (11.1 million VH) experiencing notable increases of 27%, 70%, and 136%, respectively, compared to RWC 2015.

The highlight of the tournament was the Rugby World Cup Final between South Africa and New Zealand, which achieved the highest viewing hours globally at 94 million VH.

The France vs. South Africa quarter-final followed closely with 69 million VH, creating unforgettable moments that resonated with fans worldwide.

True to its commitment to making rugby accessible to all, World Rugby collaborated with free-to-air broadcast partners in most markets, contributing to 85% of France 2023’s global viewership.

The top-performing channels were all free-to-air, with TF1 and ITV 1 leading the pack in European markets, accumulating 322 million and 295 million viewing hours, respectively.

Even in the digital era, traditional broadcasters continued to dominate, with ITV X, the streaming platform from the British broadcaster, ranking as the 8th most-viewed channel of RWC 2023, amassing 27 million VH.

The global trend towards streaming services was evident, with 70 million VH coming from online players. France 2023 was also available on World Rugby’s OTT platform, RugbyPass TV, attracting 350,000 subscribers and 1.7 million users during the tournament.

The legacy of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan was palpable, with the country ranking as the third-highest viewership for RWC 2023, accumulating 175.9 million VH.

Despite an unfavorable time zone, Japan demonstrated a remarkable 86% of viewership from live programming, highlighting the immense appetite for rugby in the region.

World Rugby CEO Alan Gilpin expressed his delight, stating, “Rugby World Cup 2023 has been a fantastic tournament on and off the field, capturing the hearts of millions worldwide.”

As rugby continues to expand its global reach, the success of France 2023 sets a promising trajectory for the sport’s future, fulfilling the vision of making rugby a truly global sport for all.

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