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World Cup trounces all other sporting events in 2006

LONDON - The World Cup final between Italy and France was by far the world's most-watched sporting event on television last year, according to research published by Initiative.

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According to the new report by Interpublic's Initiative Futures Group, the global soccer event held in Germany pulled in an average audience of 260m, with a final total worldwide audience of 603m tuning in to watch at least some part of the match, more than double the figure of any other worldwide television sporting event.

The worldwide viewing figures for the tournament were also up from the 2002 World Cup in Japan and Korea by 14%, showing its strongest increase in audience in the Asia Pacific region and North America.

One of the most notable features of the audience profile for the tournament was that more women than ever watched the matches, making up 41% of the total global audience. 

In second place, the NFL Super Bowl, which was placed first in the poll for non-World Cup year 2005, drew an average live global audience of 98m, an increase on the 93m who tuned in to watch the event last year.

The opening ceremony of the IOC Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy, came in at third place in the survey, attracting an average live worldwide audience of 87m.

However, when comparing total audience numbers, more people watched some part of the opening ceremony than the NFL event, with 249m people in total tuning in to catch a glimpse of the opening ceremony at some point, compared with only 151m viewers who tuned in to a least one part of the Super Bowl.

In fourth and fifth places, respectively, was Barcelona v Arsenal in the Uefa European Champions League Final, which recoded an average audience of 86m and the Brazilian Formula 1 Grand Prix, which attracted 83m people worldwide, according to the report.

The Uefa Champions League final drew an average audience 10% larger than the event did in 2005. The Brazilian was watched by 39% more viewers than 2005's most watched race of the tournament, the Canadian Grand Prix.

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