How many people watch sports in europe?

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How many people watch sports in europe?

In Europe, sports as a TV genre comes in 8th position according to some market reports. The amount of people that watch sports in Europe is a very large and open question as it covers a multitude of countries, each with their own preferences, and a multitude of sports. As a ready answer is not available publicly, the approach chosen to estimate the number is to use the viewing figures of the top sporting event watched in 2016 in European countries and in Europe as a whole.


The number of people watching sports in Europe is not available publicly. However, it can be estimated using the information available. In reality, this number could include replays, highlights or streaming content. However, the majority of the available information is related to live sports events. Additionally, one European viewer could watch many sports and the data available only covers individual sports events. Therefore, adding viewing data for different sports events could inflate the final figure as one viewer who watches two sports events could be counted twice or more. To avoid this double or triple accounting, the approach used in this research is to pick the figures for the top sporting event for 2016 for European countries. Given the popularity of soccer or football as it is called in Europe, the European tournament EURO 2016 that gathered the best European football teams, had the top viewing figures for sport in 2016. The formula used to calculate the percentage of the European population watching sports in Europe is the number of viewers for the top sporting event in 2016 divided by the total population. The results have been included in the attached spreadsheet.


With a population of 65 million, France is the third most populous country in Europe after Germany and the UK.

In 2016, the top sport program in French TV channels attracted an audience of 20,843,000 spectators. It was a football match involving the French team versus Portugal, in the final game of a major tournament. It represented 36% of the French population. When combining the audiences of the two channels that broadcast that event, it reached an average of 22.3 Million viewers.

Olympic games broadcasting attracted around five million spectators depending on the discipline:
-Handball: 5,255,000 viewers or 9,1% audience

The United Kingdom

In August 2017, sport on TV represented around 9.59% of total audiences. Given the UK population is 66 Million, this represented around 9.59*66,182,000*100= 6.346 Million viewers.

In the UK, the most viewed sports programs in 2016 was a football game with 12.27 Million viewers, the same game that topped the sports audiences in France in 2016, which was the final of the European football tournament. Two other football games in the same tournaments completed the podium of the top sports audiences in that year, with respectively 11.42 Million and 10.88 Million viewers.

In addition to TV, the most popular sport in the UK, which is football, is also broadcast on YouTube, with 1.8 Million viewers recorded for some games compared to 4.3 Million for their TV broadcast, an increase of 5% compared to 2015.


In Germany, the EURO 2016 and Olympics made ratings increase for ARD and ZDF by respectively 26% and 20% compared to 2015. The game featuring Germany vs France attracted nearly 30 Million viewers (29.82) winning an audience share of 80.6%. Germans are also very keen on winter sport, especially biathlon, for which some events attracted over 5 Million viewers and recorded market share superior to 30%.


One of the games of the national Italian football team in EURO 2016 gathered 19.7 Million viewers. This was equivalent to a market share of 79.1%.


In Spain, the most watched sport event in the world, which is the football game between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, attracted 2.2 Million viewers in 2016. The national team attracted 10.73 Million viewers during a game in EURO 2016.


In 2016, the Olympics broadcast averaged an average audience share of 35.4%. The final game of the EURO 2016 had a market share of 73%, without a team from Finland even featuring in the tournament.


In Denmark, the Olympics broadcast averaged an average audience share of 28.2%.


In Belgium, the most watched sport event in 2016 was unsurprisingly a EURO 2016 game involving the national team, with 5.66 Million viewers, or 81.8% of the total audience at that time.


In the Netherlands, during the European football tournament EURO 2016, the average audience was 38.3%. The Netherlands did not participate to the tournament.


In Slovenia, Ski jumping is very popular and attracted average TV audience market shares of 52.4% in 2016. 346,922 viewers also watched the final game of EURO 2016, beating the market share of ski with 57.6%.


The most watched sports event in 2016 was the football game against Belgium with 2.8 Million viewers, a market share of 61.5%.


In Bulgaria, 4.3 Million people watched the final of the EURO 2016, even if their team was not featured. It represented 63% of the audience.


Austria is similar to Slovenia as a Ski event attracts nearly as many viewers as a major football game, with 1.6 Million viewers. As for the highest sports event in 2016, the EURO 2016, a game involving Austria attracted 1.81 Million with 58.6% of the population watching the game.


The highest sport audience in Serbia in 2016 was a Water Polo tournament final game featuring the Serbian national team, that attracted 1.9 Million viewers.


Around 15.97 Million polish viewers tuned in to watch their team play Portugal in the EURO 2016 tournament.


In 31 European countries covered by a report, the EURO 2016 final game of the tournament attracted an aggregate audience of 129.1 Million viewers. Another report covering 19 European countries estimated the figure at 110 Million, not including people who watched the game outside their homes.

Pay services

The following pay services provide a wealth of Sport TV consumption data in 45 territories, including overviews of national markets.


It is difficult to evaluate the number of sports viewers in Europe that use illegal streams. In Spain alone, they have been estimated at 2 Million homes.


When it comes to sport viewing, some studies have shown that viewers would rather watch on large screen TVs, with a high picture quality than on a smaller device such as a tablet or a phone, except if they are traveling. However, this only represents a small percentage of people watching on TVs, such as 1% in the Netherlands.


Methods of audience measurement such as "peoplemeters" do not take into accounts people watching out-of-home such as in a bar. Some studies have evaluated this at 10% of the in-home audience for sports events.


Twelve European countries for which data are available have been used to estimate the percentage of Europeans watching sports. The data has been calculated using the attached spreadsheet. Population data has been sourced from the UN statistics. The viewing figures for the top sporting event have been used for 2016, and divided by the total population for each country to find the percentage of the population that watched the event. When aggregating all the viewing figures for each country and the countries' populations, it is found that an average of 31.19% of the people watched the top sporting event in 2016, across the twelve countries. These represented 67.63% of the total European population. It can be estimated that at least 31.19% of Europeans watch sports. This would represent 598,084,000*31.9%=190,788,796 people. It has been assumed that Europe does not include Russia, therefore the European population is 742,074,000-143,990,000 = 598,084,000.


Given the lack of ready-made data on the number of Europeans watching sports, this research has attempted to evaluate it and to provide an estimate using available information. It has based itself on the figures for the number of viewers of the top sporting event in various European countries in 2016, which was the EURO 2016. Using this method and the assumptions set in the Methodology section, it is estimated that a minimum of 31.9% of Europeans watch sports, or 190.788 Million people.

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