TV viewers craving live sports on TV in the 2020/2021 season

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The 2020/2021 season of sports has once again reaffirmed the power of live events on TV.

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The 2020/2021 season of sports has once again reaffirmed the power of live events on TV. With an increased offering of programmes compared to the previous years, this season has marked the return of sports on TV and has met viewers’ strong appetite. The highlights of the season being the Euro 2020 and the Tokyo Olympics Games, attracting wide audiences worldwide, to support local teams and heroes. However other local events also have achieved good performances, with viewers eager to thrill watching their favourite sports.

Significant Sports TV offering in 2021, and strong response from the public

In 2020, several major sports events have been postponed to later in the year or to 2021. This has led to increased TV sports offering in the 2020 / 2021 season, compared to the previous years. In France, there have been 1907 hours of sports broadcast on the free-to-air TV channels[1], way above the previous 4 seasons, especially as the Tour de France and Roland Garros took place in autumn 2020 and then again in spring and summer 2021. The trend is similar in Italy (1956 hours of sports) and Spain (939 hours). The UK and Germany have respectively broadcast 2746 and 1386 hours of programmes, slightly less than in 2018, year of the FIFA World Cup.

This offer of sports programmes on TV has met a strong response from the public. During the summer 2021, European TV viewers devoted a large part of their viewing time to sports. In the Netherlands, 46% of TV viewing on public channels was sports programmes, whereas it accounted for 18% of the offer. In Denmark, 38% of viewing time was sports, in Italy 27%, Germany 26% and France 24%, all above the offer.

François Gendrot, International research Manager for Glance highlights: “Two highly anticipated events stood out during the 2020/2021 season: the Tokyo Olympics and the Euro 2020, both postponed due to the pandemic. These competitions always attract huge audiences, as seen in Europe where the Euro dominated the ratings. »

Euro 2020 and Tokyo Olympics sure bets for a global audience

The Euro 2020 and Tokyo Olympics have had an even stronger potential to mobilise an audience that had been deprived of live sports for months.

Two of the Euro 2020 matches rank among the best 10 sports events ratings since 2014 on positions 6 and 10: in Italy, the final against England has been watched by 18.2 million viewers and in Spain the semi-final against Italy by 12.1 million. The Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony has been watched by 16.2 million Japanese, placing it 7th in the Top 10.

8 Europeans out of 10 have watched the Euro 2020

In Europe, 8 viewers out of 10 have watched the Competition (at least 1 minute): 87% in France, 86% in The Netherlands, 82% in Italy, 80% in Germany, and 79% in Spain.

The thrilling final between England and Italy was followed by 30 million viewers in the UK (on BBC1 and ITV) with a 85% market share, and over 18 million viewers in Italy, with a 73% market share (Rai 1).

The Euro 2020 enthusiasm goes far beyond the European borders. In the United States the final was broadcast simultaneously on 3 channels (ESPN, TUDN and Univision) reaching an audience of 9.3 million viewers. In Canada, the final was broadcast on CTV and TSN with a combined audience of 3.6 million viewers and a 47% audience share. The game broke into the top 10 sports audience of the season, a rare achievement for a football event in a nation where Ice Hockey and American football usually dominate the rankings.

« Football is the world’s most popular sport and has a huge fan base in Asia; in Indonesia and Malaysia football matches are usually the best sport audience every season. It’s also the case in South Africa. The Euro is the world’s most important competition of the season and creates wide interest globally », says François Gendrot. 

Tokyo Olympics: team sports and athletes mobilise their fans

Team sports at the Tokyo Olympics have very well performed in the countries where the team was going far in the competition. “Outstanding performances of a local team or a local hero are key factors for audiences and can vary from country and season. » says François Gendrot.

In Norway, the semi-final of the women's handball tournament opposing the national team to Russia recorded the largest audience of the Olympic Games. 380 000 fans tuned in to witness their favourite team lose to Russia, that is a 80% audience share.

The women's football tournament at the Tokyo Olympics ended on a Canadian victory against Sweden in a penalty shoot-out. In Sweden, the game was followed by 1.6 million viewers on Kanal 5, with a market share of 86%.

Basketball is a hot topic in Slovenia, especially when their youthful superstar Luka Doncic performs for their national team. The semi-final against France was the best sports audience of the season in this country, with 466 000 viewers and an audience share of 74% on Slovenija 2.

Athletes in line for medals have also been subject to the intense scrutiny of their national TV viewers vibrating in unison with their heroes.

In Indonesia, the top audience of the Tokyo Olympics was the bronze medal badminton match between Indonesia and Guatemala, which registered 1.8 million viewers on Indosiar and a 16% audience share.

Adam Ondra, regarded as one of the best climbers in the world, attracted almost 700,000 fans in Czech Republic to support him during his unsuccessful final on CT Sport, the largest audience of the Olympic Games with a 39% audience share.

The Olympic Games provide an exceptional platform for non-traditional sports to reach a massive audience. In Belgium, Nina Derwael's gold medal performance on the uneven bars rocked the Games, with 1.3 million viewers and a 78% audience share on EEN.

Strong appetite for various sports

If those global events appeal to most areas of the world, there are particular bonds between countries and sports.

In Thailand, 9 out of the top 10 best sporting audiences of the season have been achieved by the FIVB Volleyball Women's Nations League games. It reached a peak during the Thailand vs. Italy game with 3.4 million viewers and an audience share of 25.7% on Channel 3.

The IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships were a huge success in Finland as 5 games ended in the top 10 best audience this season. The final against Canada was the highest audience of the season with 2 million viewers and a 74.1% audience share on MTV3.

The boxer Manny Pacquiao is a true legend in the Philippines. For the 7th time in the last 8 seasons, one of his fights was the climax of the sporting season. The fight against the Cuban Yordenis Ugas was aired simultaneously on two channels (GMA & TV5), for a total audience of 9.7 million viewers and a 71.8% audience share.

Last but not least, in the UK, the final of the tennis US Open women’s final seeing the victory of the young British Emma Raducanu to the Canadian Leylah Fernandez was Channel 4’s highest sporting audience in 2021, with nearly 6 million viewers and a 37.4% audience share. Even more, this final was also the highest audience on its timeslot - all genres included - in the 16-to-34-year-old demographic, gathering 740 000 young tennis fans. A very promising outcome as regards the younger audiences.

Laure Osmanian Molinero

[1] France: TF1, France 2, France 3, France 4, M6, C8, W9 / Germany: ARD, Kabel Eins, RTL, Sat 1, ZDF / Italy: Rai 1, Rai 2, Rai 3, Rete 4, Canale 5, Italia 1, La7 / Spain: La1, La 2, Cuatro, Tele5, La Sexta / UK: BBC 1, BBC 2, Channel 4, Channel 5, ITV



Confidence interval calculus

Sample size or target in the sample

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Proportion observed in the sample or on a target in the sample

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Warning: only applies to a proportion. The Average Rate is an average of proportions and the Audience Share a ratio of proportions. This tool is provided for information purposes. It cannot be applied for professional purposes without further precautions.

Test of significance of the differences between two proportions

Used to assess whether the difference between 2 proportions is significant at the 95% threshold


Sample size

1st sample


2nd sample


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