Score for World Cup Soccer - More Eyeballs, No Speeches

For a TV program, a billion viewers would mean a lot of money or prestige for a TV producer. But it's not warranted, in either case, for the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences, nor for U.S. TV advertisers.

Despite years of fostering the marketing line that 'a billion' people are watching the famed event, The New Yorker Magazine this week went to great pains to argue that it's more like several hundred million. But it missed a bigger fact: there are TV events, which come a lot closer than the Oscars.

Last year, the 43.5 million U.S. viewers of the Oscars were 15 percent of the whole U.S. population, according to the article. Extrapolating this percentage across the entire world population would give you just short of 1 billion.

But there is one problem with that. The Oscars are far less popular around the world -- in China, Venezuela, and Kiribati - than in the U.S.



Fifteen percent of 715 Chinese citizens aren't watching the show; 1 percent is more probable. Some Latin America countries hardly watch the show at all. The logic isn't with our U.S. movie celebrity mentality on this one. Think more global. Think sports.

Just one month ago, the Super Bowl pulled in twice the viewers than the Oscar did - around 86 million - according to Nielsen Media Research. That's about 30 percent of the U.S. population, so by that estimate, the Super Bowl has more potential than the Oscars of ever reaching that elusive 1 billion. But even that's not right. NFL football isn't that popular outside the United States.

World Cup Soccer, on the other hand - the quadrennial event, which is played in over 100 nations on the planet -- is generally regarded as the world's most popular sport.

In 2002, Spanish-language network Univision in the United States earned a Super Bowl-like 66 share for the World Cup. Common sense would say if it gets a 66 share in the United States. -- only targeting Spanish-language citizens in a country where it is not the most popular sport -- then World Cup Soccer is easily the biggest TV event on the planet. (Sorry "Seinfeld" or "M.A.S.H" finales).

The Super Bowl gets about a 60 share, around 30 percent of the U.S. population. The World Cup should easily get to those percentages on a worldwide basis -- against the 6.5 billion world population.

So, with apologies to the Oscars and its fastidious accountants, the rough estimate winner (that any TV measurement company would surely have no trouble reporting) for the biggest TV program in the world is World Cup soccer, with just under 2 billion viewers.

And, best of all, no acceptance speeches.

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