Most-Viewed Sporting Events in the World
As it’s impossible to be in the stands for every major sporting event in the world, the next best thing is to follow them closely online or on TV. Making plans with your friends to watch some of the largest sporting events in the world is part of the fun.
I wouldn’t be surprised if most of you thought that the Super Bowl was the most-viewed sporting event. However, it doesn’t even make it to the top five.
So, which sporting events are widely followed across the globe? We used statistics from early 2020 to bring you the 12 sporting events with the largest following. Take a look.
Tour de France
It might come as a shock that one of the world’s most-viewed sporting events is a cycling event.
It’s estimated that the Tour de France is viewed by 3.5 billion viewers from all around the world. Since 1903, this cycling event has been regarded as one of the world’s largest and most prestigious competitions.
It is also one of the most challenging competitions, lasting a total of 23 days. The race goes through the scenic mountain roads of France, and it’s around 2,300 miles long. The Tour de France consists of 21 stages, and teams of eight people compete to achieve the fastest collective time.
FIFA World Cup
As opposed to cycling, it comes as no surprise that a soccer event has made it to this list. The most popular sport globally and its most prominent competition — the FIFA World Cup, is watched by 3.262 billion people worldwide. The appeal comes from the fact that 32 (48 from 2026) national teams compete against each other for the title.
The Cup is held every four years, and it is one of the most significant events in sports.
The World Cup final in 2018 was watched in its entirety by 517 million viewers, while more than 1.1 billion people tuned in to the game for at least a few minutes.
Cricket World Cup
Although not many people outside of Asia and Europe are aware of cricket’s popularity, loyal fans know its impact on fans. The World Cup is the most prestigious international championship for One Day International cricket.
The record in viewership is held by the 2019 World Cup, with 2.6 billion people tuning in during the tournament. England and Wales hosted the Cup that year.
The tournament takes place every four years and is held over the course of six weeks. The next Cricket World Cup is set to be hosted by India in 2023.
Summer / Winter Olympic Games
The Summer Olympic Games are among the most anticipated sporting events globally. The Games are held every four years in some of the most enticing countries in the world. The next Games are scheduled to be held in Tokyo in 2021.
Viewers are pulled in with the hope of sharing their nation’s success and pride while also witnessing a variety of showstopping triumphs. The 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro drew in 3.6 billion viewers globally.
The Winter Olympic Games are not far from the Summer Games in terms of viewership numbers, as they feature highly popular winter sports that appeal to fans worldwide.
Like the Summer Games, the Winter Games take place every four years, spanning 17 days. Some of the most notable sports include alpine skiing, ice hockey, figure skating, and snowboarding.
The Olympic Games in Pyeongchang attracted around 1.92 billion viewers. The next Olympic Games will be held in Beijing in 2022, making it the first location to host both the Summer and Winter Games.
FIFA Women’s World Cup
As a result of women’s soccer becoming more popular, the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup attracted over a billion viewers — more precisely 1.12 billion. The tournament held in France followed a format similar to the men’s cup as it started with the group stage, progressing to the playoff stage, and ending with the gold-medal game.
The tournament gained more attraction than usual as the US national team defended their championship with an astounding 2-0 win over the Netherlands.
UEFA Champions League
As I’ve mentioned before, soccer is the most popular sport globally, so it comes as no surprise that another soccer tournament has managed to find its way on this list.
The UEFA Champions League is one of the biggest soccer tournaments globally, featuring Europe’s top teams.
The 2020 UEFA Champions League final between Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich was the highest-rated UEFA final in the United States in five years, with 2.05 million viewers tuning in.
The pinnacle of American sporting events is the Super Bowl — an event held in a different US city every February. The National Football League’s championship game is probably the most-viewed television program in the States. It is difficult to compare it to any other significant event in the country.
The Super Bowl lost a bit of its attraction in the last couple of years, with a lot of attention being focused on the halftime show and the commercials. Super Bowl LIV was the tenth most watched Super Bowl with 102 million viewers in total. The next Super Bowl is scheduled for February 2021 to be played in Florida.
MLB World Series
Another highly anticipated sporting event in North America is the MLB World Series. The Series is the culmination of Major League Baseball in the United States and Canada. Even though its popularity is open to debate, one thing is for sure — the competition is not what it was before.
The 2020 MLB World Series did not attract many viewers — only 9.6 million, which was an all-time low for the Series. It was played between Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers, with the latter team winning the Commissioner’s Trophy.
NCAA Final Four
Interestingly, the NCAA accumulates a more extensive viewership than the NBA. Perhaps the reason for this is the fact that many of its most successful players go on to become NBA stars.
The culmination of the college basketball season is one of the most-viewed sporting events in the USA. NCAA Final Four’s viewership continues to rise through the years, with 13.1 million people watching the finals in 2017 and 19.6 million in 2019.
The NBA season is quite long, with 82 games in total, so it might be best to look at the results that the playoffs and the finals bring when it comes to viewership. The NBA Finals is a best-of-seven playoff series played between the Western Conference champion and the Eastern Conference champion.
With some of the best players in the world, as well as terrific gameplay, and a one-of-a-kind atmosphere, it’s not difficult to see what the whole fuss is about. On average, 7.5 million viewers watched the 2020 Finals in the United States.
The Masters is one of the four most important professional golf tournaments in the world. Although golf is not the most exciting and attention-grabbing sport out there, it has its loyal audience. The top professionals compete for the trophy by playing four rounds over four days.
Much to everyone’s surprise, the 2019 Masters was one of the most-viewed tournaments ever, mostly due to Tiger Woods winning his first Championship in 11 years. On top of that, the final was moved up five hours due to weather conditions, resulting in the most-watched morning golf broadcast in 32 years — 18.3 million viewers.