More Indians are watching the 2018 FIFA World Cup than ever before

Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup - Saint Petersburg Stadium, St. Petersburg, Russia - June 11, 2018. A man is seen next to the FIFA World Cup logo at the stadium. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Football may not be the most popular sport in the country, but Indians are certainly interested in it. According to Sony Pictures Networks (SPN), the country broke its own viewership records for the World Cup, with 47.3 million viewers watching the first four World Cup matches this year. Of these, 41 million watched the telecast on television, while six million watched through Sony’s livestream.

Indian states West Bengal, Assam, Kerala and Maharashtra accounted for most of the country’s viewers. That’s not surprising, since the affinity for football has been higher in these states.

The opening match between Russia and Saudi Arabia had a strong viewership of 19.3 million in India. On an average, viewers spent 39 minutes on watching that match.

Contrary to stereotypes, women accounted for about 45% of the viewers. However, the ongoing World Cup has increased football viewership figures by about 66% of the total sports viewership this week.

At the same time, it seems viewership for the World Cup grew globally as well. For instance, Iceland had 99.6% of its total TV viewers watching their team play its first ever World Cup match.

A country that doesn’t follow this trend is the USA. Other than the fact that football isn’t a very popular sport in the country, the American football team didn’t qualify for the tournament this time. As a result, viewership in USA was 44% lower than what the country saw in 2014. According to the official FIFA website, USA had a wider viewership last year than India.

Despite the fact that the tournament is still in the group stages, the online streaming record for WC’18 is already 40% more than the record set by the National Football League’s (NFL) Super Bowl. Of course, football has a more global appeal than the NFL too, so these numbers aren’t quite surprising. The tournament also reported the best ever media-rights sales numbers.