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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, while international football pulls in incredible audiences.

Update:
Fans arrive at the University of Phoenix Stadium for Super Bowl XLIX between the Seahawks and Patriots.
Justin HeimanAFP

Real Madrid lifted a 14th European Cup / Champions League title on Saturday night in a game that will have been watched across the world. While figures for the 2022 Champions League final global viewership are not yet finalized, the 2021 final between Chelsea and Manchester City pulled in an estimated 700 million viewers, a remarkable figure given the two clubs in question play in the same national league. However, such is the global appeal of football, 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 identity of the sides. This is one of the reasons that football, in the international sense of the word, hugely outstrips its US counterpart in terms of global audience figures, even when the Super Bowl itself is the game it is being compared to.

The 2021 Super Bowl between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinanati Bengals, for example, pulled in an estimated 112 million viewers, almost 600 million fewer than the 2021 Champions League final. And that was a turnaround from the previous five 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. However, that figure was purely for viewers in the United States, which means roughly one in every 3.5 Americans tuned in. Around the world, it is estimated 30-50 million more viewers watch the Super Bowl on streaming services or apps. The 2015 face-off between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots had 114.4 million viewers, making it the most watched Super Bowl in history in the US.

International football 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 football 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, the average audience for regular season NFL games was 17.1 million viewers, a 10% increase over 2020.

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