Rugby World Cup 2023 confirmed as the most viewed rugby event of all time

David Skippers
South Africa's players celebrate with the winner's trophy after winning the Rugby World Cup final match between against New Zealand at the Stade de France.

South Africa's players celebrate with the winner's trophy after winning the Rugby World Cup final match between against New Zealand at the Stade de France.

World Rugby has revealed that last year’s Rugby World Cup in France was the most watched rugby event of all time, with a 19 per cent increase in viewership from the 2019 tournament in Japan.

The 2023 global showpiece achieved 1.33 billion viewing hours (VH) across all programming on linear and non-linear broadcast, making it 30 per cent more viewed than England 2015 as the last Rugby World Cup in the northern hemisphere (1.01 billion VH) and 19 per cent more viewed than Japan 2019 (1.11 billion VH).

The growth in viewership for the men’s Rugby World Cup is evidence of the global showpiece’s popularity and relevance in a highly competitive global entertainment market, according to World Rugby.

Hosts France lead the way

Hosts France recorded the highest viewership worldwide with 481 million VH despite being knocked out by eventual champions South Africa in the quarter-finals of the World Cup.

Eight of the eleven markets surveyed showed strong viewership growth since 2015 despite a general decline in linear TV globally and an accrued competition in the entertainment offering.

The United Kingdom’s viewership came close to breaking the 2015 record (361 million) when England hosted Rugby World Cup 2015, which is an impressive result considering overall linear TV viewership in the UK was down by 27 per cent over the same period.

Growing viewership has also been observed in rugby’s emerging markets like Germany (15.2 million VH), Italy (16.1 million VH) and USA (11.1 million VH) where rugby’s popularity is soaring with a +27, +70 and +136 per cent respectively compared to the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

The 2023 Rugby World Cup final between the Springboks and All Blacks achieved the highest viewing hours of any match globally, with 94 million VH, followed by the quarter-final between the Boks and Les Bleus with 69 million VH.​

Despite an unfavourable time zone with two pool fixtures in the middle of the night, 86 per cent of Japanese viewership came from live programming, demonstrating the huge appetite for the sport in one of its most significant markets.

Japan had the most viewed matches of any domestic broadcaster, with two national team pool games – against Argentina and Samoa – each achieving 33 million viewing hours courtesy of more accessible kick-off times at 19:45.

World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin expressed his delight at the increased viewership.

‘A fantastic tournament’

“Rugby World Cup 2023 has been a fantastic tournament on and off the field and we are delighted to see that the thrilling spectacle millions enjoyed in France captured the hearts of millions more worldwide,” he said.

“As our sport continues to grow and break new markets, we will continue to work with our broadcast partners to enhance the viewing experience, especially for new audiences, helping us achieve our vision of making rugby a global sport for all.”

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