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Super Bowl vs Champions League final: which is the most watched sporting event?

The Champions League final is watched by significantly more people than the Super Bowl, as international soccer pulls in incredible audiences.

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Real Madrid lifted a 14th European Cup / Champions League title last June in a game that drew rapt attention across the world. While worldwide viewing figures are difficult to ascertain, with many countries relying on estimates rather than concrete information, the best numbers show a viewership of an estimated 700 million viewers, a remarkable figure by any standard.

However, such is the global appeal of soccer, and the diversity of nationalities in any given team in the modern game, that even when sides from the same country meet in a European final, interest transcends the teams themselves. This is one of the reasons that soccer hugely outstrips football in terms of global audience figures, even when the football game we are talking about is the Super Bowl.

The 2022 Super Bowl between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals was watched by two-thirds of Americans, according to research by the Nielsen Group, pulling in an estimated 208 million viewers. That marked a turnaround for the NFL from previous years, when figures in the US had failed to break the 100-million mark: the 2021 Super Bowl contested by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs was watched by just over 96 million people.

Around the world, it is estimated 30-50 million more viewers watch the Super Bowl on streaming services or apps. The 2017 face-off between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons had 172 million viewers worldwide, making it the previously most watched Super Bowl in history.

International soccer rules the roost

The Champions League final generally averages around 400 million viewers – the estimate for the 2021 final can probably be attributed in part to the coronavirus pandemic – around four times as many as the Super Bowl on an annual basis and is watched in an estimated 200 countries worldwide. But when international soccer is concerned, those figures go through the roof. FIFA estimated that the 2018 World Cup final between France and Croatia pulled in 517 million viewers worldwide, while the Euro 2020 final between Italy and England had an audience of 328 million.

Overall, though, the figures are staggering. FIFA estimates over 1 billion tuned in to the 2018 World Cup final at some stage during the 90 minutes, while Euro 2020 pulled in over five billion viewers over the course of the tournament.

By comparison, while the Super Bowl has steadily climbed in viewership, it has only just recently broken the 100 million ceiling. Another problem with comparing the Super Bowl which is annual, to either the World Cup or Euro final is that these events are only once every four years. A true like-for-like comparison is the Champions League Final, which like the Super Bowl, is an annual event.

And there is no question at all, like for like, standing toe to toe, the Champions League final is in an entirely different weight class to the Super Bowl. Even if you factor in the extra international viewers, your maximum figure for the Super Bowl is a worldwide figure of no more than 260 million, around a third of the Champions League. Bow to the champ, tip your hat, the fight is done.


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