Rugby World Cup 2023 most viewed rugby event ever
January 30, 2024
The Rugby World Cup 2023 in France was the most viewed rugby event of all time. The tournament achieved 1.33 billion viewing hours (VH) across all programming on linear and non-linear broadcast, making it 30 per cent more viewed than England 2015 as the last Rugby World Cup in the northern hemisphere (1.01 billion VH) and 19 per cent more viewed than Japan 2019 (1.11 billion VH).
Hosts France recorded the highest viewership worldwide with 481 million VH despite the national team’s exit at the quarter-final stage.
Eight of the 11 markets surveyed saw strong viewership growth since 2015 despite a general decline in linear TV globally and an accrued competition in the entertainment offering. The UK’s viewership came close to breaking the 2015 record (361 million) when England hosted RWC 2015, which is an significant result considering overall linear TV viewership in the UK was down by 27 per cent over the same period.
Growing viewership has also been observed in rugby’s emerging markets like Germany (15.2 millon VH), Italy (16.1 million VH) and the US (11.1 million VH) where rugby’s popularity is soaring with a +27, +70 and +136 per cent respectively versus RWC 2015.
The RWC final between South Africa and New Zealand achieved the highest viewing hours of any match globally, with 94 million VH, followed by the France v South Africa quarter-final with 69 million VH.
A Global Spectacle
World Rugby teamed up with free-to-air broadcast partners in most markets to showcase the tournament to as many fans as possible. France 2023’s global viewership came at 85 per cent from free-to-air TV.
All top 10 performing channels are free-to-air with TF1 and ITV1 the biggest performers in European markets, garnering 322 million and 295 million viewing hours respectively. TF1 in France already renewed its long-standing partnership with World Rugby and will broadcast Women’s Rugby World Cup 2025 in England in August/September 2025.
ITVX, the streaming platform from the UK broadcaster, is the eighth most viewed channel of RWC2023, with 27 million VH. It confirms a global trend towards streaming services with 70 million VH coming from online players. France 2023 was also made available on the international federation’s OTT platform RugbyPass TV for markets where not all matches would otherwise have been available for fans, attracting 350,000 subscribers and 1.7 million users during the tournament.
Japan Legacy and Time Zone Impact
As RWC 2019 broke new ground with the first Rugby World Cup ever organised in Asia, its legacy is still very alive. Japan ranks as the country with the third most viewership for RWC 2023, cumulating 175.9 million VH over the seven-week period.
While this represents a decrease from 2019 when Japan hosted the competition, the 2023 viewership figures represent a 221 per cent increase from England 2015, showcasing the lasting impact of a home Rugby World Cup and the growth of rugby in the region.
Despite an unfavourable time zone with two pool fixtures in the middle of the night, 86 per cent of Japanese viewership came from live programming, demonstrating the huge appetite for the sport in one of its most significant markets. Japan had the most viewed matches of any domestic broadcaster, with two national team pool games (v Argentina and v Samoa) each achieving 33 million viewing hours thanks to more accessible kick-off times at 19:45.
World Rugby Chief Executive, Alan Gilpin, commented: “Rugby World Cup 2023 has been a fantastic tournament on and off the field and we are delighted to see that the thrilling spectacle millions enjoyed in France captured the hearts of millions more worldwide. As our sport continues to grow and break new markets, we will continue to work with our broadcast partners to enhance the viewing experience, especially for new audiences, helping us achieve our vision of making rugby a global sport for all.”
The reporting of Rugby World Cup 2023 broadcast audiences was conducted by Futures Sport+Entertainment, a member of Interpublic Group, a research agency that combines existing data sources and proprietary tools with customised research and knowledge to advise the world’s most famous federations, leagues and clubs. The reporting of Rugby World Cup viewership combines audiences from all audited TV channels worldwide, made available by the ratings agency in each territory, with the modelling of audiences for unaudited channels. This modelling took into account population size and subscription figures, as well as the popularity of rugby in each country, including by match, day of week and stage of tournament.