World Cup Opening Day – Delivering more than Vuvuzelas?

Now that the World Cup party is well under way, I guess we do have to go beyond tales of robust socialising and numbers of Buds consumed, and provide some kind of media analysis.
The big question of course is, did the national passion for the World Cup which expressed itself in massive supporter rallies and unprecedented sales of South African flags and Bafana Bafana memorabilia, actually convert into real TV audience gains on the opening day?
An AGB Nielsen analysis of TAMS data, using Arianna, reveals that the opening ceremony and game created significant increases in viewership. Total TV viewership, all adults, peaked at around 40 ratings during the Bafana Bafana opening game against Mexico. Compared to historical averages, this indicates an overall increase in viewership of 31% over the day. If we factor in “out of home viewership” (which is not measured in TAMS) in pubs and the myriad fan parks which are a feature of the Mzansi World Cup landscape, then it is quite possible that this figure might well have emulated the achievements of Super Bowl XLIV in pushing the 50 ratings barrier!

Understandably, as the conduit to the mass free to home TV market, which is the cornerstone of football support in Mzansi, SABC 1 accounted for the bulk of the increased viewership, with total all adults audiences peaking at about 30 TVRS. An overall increase of some 133% on the day.
Increases in TV audiences for SuperSport3 were equally impressive and although ratings delivery against total adults remains relatively limited, an average delivery of 19 ratings against the upmarket DSTV subscriber base shows the increased pulling power of international football against this market segment, and how effective the Multichoice decoder sales drive into the Middle and Upper Middle LSM market clusters has been. It is certainly an indicator that without access to top notch football, TopTV is going to have its work cut out if it wants to create critical momentum in these market segments.

Although there is some variance in terms of specific day part ratings, Telmar generated TAMS data shows a fair degree of consistency in terms of the macro perspective for World Cup opening day. Bafana v Mexico generates some 29 ratings on SABC1 whilst the opening ceremony comes in considerably lower at 15 ratings. Much the same pattern as indicated by Arianna.
The drop off to 17 ratings for France v Uruguay later that evening is entirely understandable. I guess we are like sports fans all over the world. We’d rather watch our own team than the other guys. But the fact that it still delivers higher ratings than the opening ceremony, is a strong reminder that this is the African World Cup in South Africa, and that most fans have a strong interest in the performance of other African nations in the tournament.
The degree of national fervour expressed in the past few weeks leads one to ponder whether World Cup 2010 hasn’t irrevocably shifted the axis of sports interest at the top end of the Mzansi market, in the same way that winning the World Cup Rugby in 1995 changed the destiny of that sporting code in Mzansi for all time?
In terms of the long term shift, the most interesting implications are found amongst total adults in the TAMS DSTV sample universe. Opening ceremony generates some 8 ratings, whilst Match 1 generates 19 ratings. As with SABC 1, ratings drop to 9 for France v Uruguay later that evening. No surprises here.
The really interesting insight is the one delivered the day after lift-off. On Saturday afternoon 12th June, within the South African sporting paradigm, we have a classic clash. World Cup Soccer v Test Match Rugby. The irresistible force meets the immovable object.
In terms of the perception of the “typical” DSTV viewer, historically there could have been only one outcome. Rugby rules, right! Well not during World Cup it seems. Argentina v Nigeria generates 9,4 ratings and the Springboks v France 10. The Boks might have pumped France on the day but, overall, I’d call that a draw.
I don’t know what this means for the long term future of football in Mzansi but one thing’s for sure, DSTV will never be the same again. If marketers are still limiting DSTV to the exclusive “top-end top-up” role which it has traditionally played then it is seriously time for a rethink. Certainly it flags the current limitation on TAMS sampling and the need accelerate alternative, and more broadly inclusive, forms of viewership iteration.