64% of Aussie population watched Matildas, new Deakin research claims

Seven smashed television ratings records last week with their broadcast of the Matildas' World Cup showdown against England, but new data from Deakin University claims the viewership figures for the game were far higher than reported.

Dr Hunter Fujak, a lecturer in sports management at Deakin University, combined the official viewership figures from last Wednesday’s match with those watching from pubs, clubs, through Optus Sport, and at dozens of ‘live sites’ across Australia.

Fujak found that the cumulative reach of the Matildas game across Channel 7, Optus Sport, venues and live sites was 17.15 million people.

“This represents approximately 64% of the entire Australian population,” Fujak explains.

Aside from the national reach of 11.15 million people via Channel 7 and 7plus, 3.01 million watched at a venue, such as a pub or a club, 1.74 million streamed via Optus Sport, and 1.25 million attended a live site around the country.

“Viewership at a venue or live site held a proportionally higher share of total viewership within mainland metropolitan capital cities (27%) than in regional areas (20%), likely due to accessibility,” Fujak said.

He pointed out that, when considering the population during the 2000 Olympics was 19.1 million people, last week’s 17.15 million viewers makes the Matildas semi-final “without doubt the most viewed event in Australian history.”

The current TV ratings system is outdated, Fujak said, given the way Australians watch sport.

“We talk about sport as this cultural touchpoint that brings people together, but our current television measurement system only measures viewing in our homes,” he explains.

“Major sport events, however, bring people together in pubs, clubs and venues, whilst mega events bring people together on the streets.”

To arrive at these statistics, Deakin University collected survey data via electronic direct mailout and online, the day after the match, with a final sample size of n=1,564. The data was stratified between metropolitan and regional residents, to account for differing geographical access to venues and live sites. The differentiation between ‘metro’ and ‘regional’ was based on OzTAM’s definition, in order to keep results aligned to Channel 7’s reported audience.

“These figures further reinforce how successful the tournament and the Matildas have been in bringing people together the nation. It provides hard evidence that helps change the narrative around the significance of women’s sport.”

The other important facet to this, according to Fujak, is the economic boost the games had on the hospitality sector.

“People flocked to public venues to cheer on the Matildas and the broader World Cup with friends, family and colleagues.

“This would have been a huge income earner for those businesses, many of whom and are still recovering from Covid disruption and would typically have expected much slower mid-week trade in winter.

“We have a horse race that’s said to stop the nation, but we’ve officially had a sports match that’s stopped the nation.”


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