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ITV nears 13m peak for final of ‘groundbreaking’ Rugby World Cup

ITV, the UK free-to-air commercial broadcaster, claimed the most-watched television moment of the year for England’s 32-12 defeat to South Africa in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup final.

ITV’s exclusive coverage of the final reached an audience peak of 12.8 million viewers, making it the most-watched television moment of 2019 on any channel. The impressive ratings for a match that kicked off at 9am (GMT), including a peak 79-per-cent share, came as World Rugby hailed Japan’s staging of the tournament as the greatest in its history.

The ratings represent the highest audience for a rugby match in the UK since the 2007 World Cup final (also between England and South Africa).

The average audience across the entire ITV broadcast (from 8.50am to 12.15pm) was 8.9 million, a 67-per-cent share, making the final the most-watched sports programme on any channel since football’s 2018 Fifa World Cup.

In South Africa, public-service broadcaster the SABC agreed a sublicensing deal with pay-television broadcaster SuperSport that ensured the final received free-to-air coverage.

In France, one of World Rugby’s main rights markets, commercial free-to-air broadcaster TF1 drew an average of 5.03 million viewers for the final and a 56.8-per-cent share. Live coverage on Rai2, the second channel of the Italian public broadcaster, attracted an audience of 574,000 viewers (a 7.1-per-cent share).

Network Ten, the Australian free-to-air commercial broadcaster, drew a nationwide audience of 763,000 for the final. There were 541,000 viewers in Australia’s main metropolitan markets. An additional 354,000 viewers watched the game on pay-TV broadcaster Fox Sports.

Meanwhile, World Rugby has reported numerous new records from Japan 2019. A record 99.3-per-cent attendance across the tournament resulted in 1.84 million tickets sold, in addition to more than 1.13 million people filling the official fanzones, a new high.

Japan 2019 also set records for fan engagement around the globe with 1.7 billion digital video views and an estimated worldwide broadcast audience of 400 million, including a domestic all-time record television audience of 54.8 million for the Japan v Scotland pool phase match.

Japan is said to have welcomed over 400,000 international visitors during the tournament, contributing to a record Y437bn (€3.61bn/$4.03bn) economic impact delivered for Japan.

World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “Rugby World Cup 2019 has been one of the greatest, if not the greatest of all time, and certainly the most groundbreaking in terms of bringing the game to new audiences and attracting new fans to the sport we love.”

Local organisers faced a notable challenge during the tournament as three games were cancelled on the weekend of October 12-13 due to the impact of Typhoon Hagibis.

Beaumont continued: “The way Japan reacted to the incredibly difficult events surrounding Typhoon Hagibis was a tribute to the resilience and determination of the people of this wonderful country and we continue to think about all those who lost loved ones or were affected by this tragic event.

“Japan 2019 has broken records galore and has changed the face of rugby forever.”

TF1 said last week that it expects to lose over €1m ($1.1m) from the cancellation of three matches, including France’s clash with England.

World Rugby said preparations are already well advanced for the 2023 World Cup in France, with a delegation from the organising committee participating in an official handover at the World Rugby Awards on Sunday.