Euro 2020 Special

FIFA World Cup 2022 Attracts Record Viewership in India 

The FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar turned out to be the most-watched football event ever in India with over 40 billion hours of watch time clocked across all platforms. The trend is in line with global viewership numbers across the world, with the fears of boycott from the fans before the start of the tournament not materialising. An action-packed tournament that saw plenty of upsets, free-of-cost availability and Lionel Messi’s Argentina winning the World Cup helped boost the viewership figures. 

As club football resumes across the world, let’s take a look at why the FIFA World Cup 2022 succeeded in India, and its implications for the future of the sport in the country:


Record Viewership On Digital Platforms

The success of FIFA World Cup 2022 in India can be seen by the sheer number of viewers who tuned in to the final fixture between Lionel Messi’s Argentina and defending champions France. According to JioCinema, a record 32 million viewers tuned in to watch Lionel Messi clinch the trophy for Argentina on December 18th. 

JioCinema, the official broadcaster of FIFA World Cup 2022 in India, revealed that digital viewership numbers crossed TV viewership numbers for the tournament – a first for any major sporting event in the country. Over 110 million viewers watched one stage of the tournament or the other, making India one of the highest digital viewership markets for the tournament. 


Dedicated Fandoms Across The Country

The interest shown by fans across India in the tournament, despite India’s absence from it, can be explained by dedicated and fierce fandoms in pockets of the country. The states of Kerala and West Bengal along with much of North-East India are traditionally more attracted to football than the rest of the country, with clubs in the Indian Super League and the I-League based out of these states getting tremendous support throughout the year.

The intensity of the support shown by fans can be seen in the clashes that broke out between rival groups over the last month. Argentina and Brazil are the most followed and supported teams by Indians, partly due to the scheduling of the fixtures involving these teams which allows fans to view every fixture without staying late into the night. Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal and Gareth Southgate’s England also have their own fan bases.

Once every four years, these fan clubs burst into the limelight, spending considerable time, energy and money into organising public streaming of fixtures, and decorating streets with banners, hoardings and flags. There are even mini-World Cups held in Kerala, where fan clubs form teams that represent all 32 teams participating in the tournament. 

The support for teams by Indians was evident even in Qatar, where Indian expats were the biggest presence in the stadiums and the streets. 


Free Streaming And Schedule Gave A Boost

The viewership numbers were also helped by JioCinema’s decision to make the FIFA World Cup 2022 free for all to watch in the country. In a cricket-crazy nation already saturated with streaming services, the tournament might not have evinced the same interest if it was kept behind a paywall. The wide publicity given by JioCinema to the tournament also helped attract new fans to the game – especially among the younger generation.

JioCinema’s decision to make the tournament free to watch comes as the broadcaster prepares to stream the next edition of the Indian T20 League. With innovative models like the hype mode, trivia in real-time and the ability to switch camera feed, the streaming platform tested a wide variety of technologies to bring to the premier cricket tournament next year. 

The time zone difference between Qatar and India also helped give a boost to the tournament, as all fixtures were held during night time in the Indian subcontinent when families are glued to their TVs. It is for the same reason that the UAE has become the default destination for both Indian and Pakistan cricket boards whenever there is an issue with hosting fixtures at home. 


Will Audience Embrace The ISL?

With the grand success of the FIFA World Cup 2022 in India, football fans in India are hoping for a boost to the national team’s prospects on the global stage. Indian fans are particularly attracted by the individual talent in team sports, with many fans picking their favourite teams based on which country their favourite player belongs to. Apart from the likes of Bhaichung Bhutia and Sunil Chhetri, India rarely produced any other superstar whose sheer presence can attract fans towards the game – both in the stadiums and on TV.

But the steady rise in popularity of the Indian Super League this season – partly thanks to the increased competition among the clubs – might help give a boost to the sport in the country. With the league moving back to a home-and-away model, stadiums are seeing a steady stream of crowds supporting their local teams. The quality of play has also been improving, with foreign managers and players making their mark during the season.

While it is impossible for the Indian Super League to keep the fans on the edge like the FIFA World Cup 2022 did, it can certainly enhance the interest of younger generations towards football with the right mix of publicity and entertainment. India is decades away from assembling a World Cup-winning team, but it can use the surge in popularity towards the sport to reap short-term gains. 




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