China and South East Asia: key markets for rebuilding Asian Cup television audiences

The Asian Football Confederation's exclusive marketing and media partner, Lagardere's Singapore-based subsidiary,  World Sport Group, has released selected data on the television audiences of the finals of the  2011 AFC Asian Cup played in Qatar during 7–29 January 2011. The figures indicate a significantly declining trend in the television audience when China and South East Asian countries are not participating.

In comparison to the cumulative television audience of 748 million people for the 2004 Asian Cup in China and 655 million for the 2007 edition in South East Asia, WSG said 2011 "delivered more than 484 million viewers", noting that "China’s early exit and the absence of ASEAN nations from the competition impacted overall ratings."

Given that Japan finished champions in Qatar and South Korea third, it is not surprising they set "new records domestically" with a significant increase in cumulative ratings. "Audiences in Japan grew from 131 million in the previous edition of the event to 209.2 million this year, and 29.5 million to 41 million in Korea."

Japan, China and Korea emerged as the top three viewership markets with Japan capturing 43.2% of the total AFC Asian Cup 2011 audience. Audiences in Japan and Korea made up just over half of the 63 million viewers who watched the semifinal between the two traditional Asian football rivals – the highest rated match of the entire tournament and in both countries despite the late night airtime. In Japan, TV Asahi drew an audience of 24.46 million while KBS2 had just over eight million in Korea.

The second most watched AFC Asian Cup 2011 match was the final between Japan and Australia with 54.4 million viewers while the third highest rated match was the quarterfinal between Japan and Qatar with an audience of 45.63 million.

Back in 2004, the cup final between China and Japan drew an estimated 250 million viewers in China alone, thoroughly dwarfing the 166 million world-wide viewers who watched the final of the European Football Championship between Germany and Spain in 2008.

The total viewership for the 2011 Asian Cup in China was 156.6 million (32% of the total audience for the event) while the key South East Asian nations of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam had a combined audience of 24 million.

In West Asia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were the fourth and fifth largest viewership markets respectively accounting for 5.8% and 1.1% of the total audience.

"The AFC Asian Cup 2011 delivered top class football and the significant television viewership achieved reaffirms its position as the top sporting event in Asia,” said Pierre Kakhia, President, West Asia, World Sport Group.

The event also enjoyed significant following on internet and social media platforms. Nearly seven million fans visited the AFC Asian Cup 2011’s official website, while 2.5 million followed the event on its Facebook page. Additionally, there were 1.2 million views of 115 videos featuring AFC Asian Cup 2011 action that were available on You Tube.

The data, however, suggests that the broadcast success of the 2015 Asian Cup to be played in Australia will depend largely on China's participation alongside Japan and South Korea and some of the ASEAN group.

Recent failures in China's youth program, the continuing schism in Indonesian football and the EPL obsession of Malaysian and Singaporean fans are issues that need to be urgently addressed by a vibrant Asian Football Confederation. Unfortunately this may be on hold until FIFA resolves the leadership position of AFC President Mohamed Bin Hammam.

The viewership report for the AFC Asian Cup 2011 was collated by CSM Media Research in association with its partners TNS and Kantar Sports,with Video Research Ltd. and Pan Arab Research Center (PARC) contributing data from Japan and the Middle-East respectively.