FIFA World Cup rode a high-wave of media-created buzz even before the referee blew the whistle for the first match of the World Cup.
Football received three times higher editorial coverage than cricket across six major cities -- Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Mumbai -- in the run-up to the event. In terms of column centimeter (ccm) of editorial space generated, this would be 1,85,000 for soccer as against 57,000 for cricket.
According to research published by Eikona PR Track, the public relations and content analysis division of TAM Media Research, soccer fever reached a pitch in Mumbai, touching close to 48,000 ccm.
While English newspapers contributed 1,40,000 ccm of editorial space to football, cricket received a mere 41,000 ccm. Among regional papers, papers in soccer-crazy Bengal allotted 11,000 ccm to soccer against cricket's 800 ccm.
News channels also added to the buzz. There was an overall 4 per cent increase in male viewers on news channels during June 9-17, primarily from the Hindi news segment. Not surprisingly, viewership in the 15-24 years age group increased by 2 per cent. This came completely from the English news segment.
While FIFA brought in more female viewers, cricket welcomed more men. Female viewership went up from 26 per cent during pre-World Cup period (May 31-June 8) to 31 per cent once the World Cup started -- a jump of 19 per cent. On the other hand, male viewership saw 7 per cent drop during the corresponding period. Cricket, on the other hand, saw a minor 2 per cent increase in male viewership, but women's contribution saw a 2 per cent dip.
Meenakshi Madhvani of Spatial Access, a media audit firm, said: "While something like the FIFA World Cup gets really large audiences almost on the scale of cricket, soccer and cricket cannot be seen as competitors. Cricket appeals to all sections across the nation."
Importantly, viewership patterns are not exclusive. Nearly half the FIFA World Cup viewers also watched the ongoing India-West Indies series (for at least a minute a day). High decibel channel switching was observed during the segment that coincided with the World Cup and the India-West Indies Test match on June 10, 2006.
Reflecting the quality of sports programming on offer, a significant 32 per cent of the audience watching the football moved on to cricket during half time and a higher 45 per cent at the end of the football match.
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