Who Watched the World Cup?

Did you watch the World Cup final on Sunday? Chances are, you did. Though the numbers haven’t been finalized, FIFA estimates that 700 million people across the globe tuned in to see Spain beat the Netherlands.

That’s a pretty staggering number. If it holds, that means the 2010 World Cup final will be one of the most-watched TV events in history. (The 2006 World Cup final was also in the territory of 700 million, so only time will tell which match-up was more popular.)

Here, a look at some TV broadcasts by the numbers. Let’s see how the World Cup matches up against other popular broadcasts.

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1 billion
The number of people who tuned in to the 2008 Olympic opening ceremonies in China. This is the current record-holder for the most-watched TV event, and it’ll be hard to ever topple it. London, you’ve got your work cut out for you. It’s also been estimated that China Central Television’s New Year’s Gala pulls in a billion viewers every year, but those numbers are hard to verify.

700 million
Number of estimated viewers for the World Cup final match for both this year, and for 2006. In Europe, soccer gets great ratings every week. Imagine that.

106.5 million
The number of people who watched the Saints and the Colts duke it out in this year’s Super Bowl. A close game ensured that viewers stayed tuned in until the end. Still, our American football gets lower ratings than the English Premier League football, and that’s something we just have to live with.

105.97 million
The number of people who saw the M*A*S*H finale. This is often used as the benchmark for big ratings. The Cheers finale is the second-highest primetime network finale with 80 million viewers.

73 million
The number of people who tuned in to see the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show for the first time.

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36 million
The number of people who watched the American Idol finale when viewership was at its peak—in 2006. Last year, the former ratings juggernaut only managed to attract 24.2 million viewers to see its winner—who was that again?—be crowned.

13.5 million
The amount of people who tuned in to the finale of Lost. See, you can’t complain that everyone you know was boring you to tears blathering on about the finale.

9.95 million
The number of viewers who watched LeBron James’s recent announcement on ESPN. He may give you a championship, Miami, but he’s not box office. Ever think about starting up a soccer franchise?

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