(Corrects grand prix to Bahrain and deletes 'season-ending' in
By Simon Evans
MIAMI Jan 31 UEFA's Champions League final has
for the first time replaced the NFL's Super Bowl as the
most-watched annual sports event, according to a survey.
The yearly report from London-based Initiative Futures
Sports and Entertainment, found that both events continue to
grow but the European soccer final is growing faster.
With 2009 not including a 'mega event' -- a Summer Olympic
Games or a soccer World Cup or European championship -- it
offered a chance to measure the two biggest annual sporting
The Champions League final between Barcelona and Manchester
United, on May 27, drew an average audience of 109 million while
the Super Bowl between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona
Cardinals on February 1, attracted three million less.
In terms of 'total audience', the amount of people who
watched part of the event, the difference was larger with the
Champions League pulling in 206 million throughout the game
while the Super Bowl managed 162 million.
While the Super Bowl's audience was overwhelmingly domestic,
UEFA's product appeared to be doing better in the battle for
viewers globally -- in non-World Cup and non-Olympic Games year.
"The Champions League has been better able to exploit the
large burgeoning populations of the Asia-Pacific region," said
Kevin Alavay, the report's director, who noted the presence of
global brands such as Barcelona and Manchester United helped
However, the good news for the NFL was that the 2009 figures
were the most-watched Super Bowl.
The report also showed the Super Bowl had the lowest ratio
between average and total audience figures among top events --
in other words, a much larger percentage of fans watched all of
the Super Bowl than all of the Champions League programming -- a
key factor behind the American event's huge appeal to
But European soccer was clearly outpacing the NFL in the key
"While the Super Bowl has secured free-to-air broadcasting
deals in a number of important European markets such as the UK,
France and Germany, it's distribution and popularity in the key
Asia-Pacific region lags far behind the UEFA Champions League,"
said the report.
The report, in its seventh year, is based on official data
from national bodies and measures 'at-home viewing'.
Alavay said the continued growth of the Super Bowl and the
Champions League final was particularly impressive in a time of
fragmentation in television audiences caused by digitalisation.
"The value of these properties is actually growing
disproportionately and in an area of digitalisation they are
more than bucking the trend," he said.
Formula One's Bahrain Grand Prix was in third place with an
average of 54 million, while the men's 100 metres final from the
Athletics world championships was fourth with 33 million.
(Editing by Alison Wildey. To query or comment on this story