Yeah, that's why it works – anyone can spin a line like
"1994 ... The World Cup audience over 52 televised games reaches up to 33 billion/32.1 billion people"
which they even admitted was made up, and someone will still say, "well, technically, if you give these FIFA guys the benefit of the doubt..."
I agree the numbers are very quotable. And the 1998 World Cup reached
33 billion people, which equates to "50 billion viewing hours"
, obviously. (Not engagements.)
An independent figure for recent World Cups, approximate but not boosted to trick sponsors, is nearly 200 million viewers per match
, average, which is amazing by any standards.
But what about small sports that most of the world doesn't like? How do
get on the ratings gravy train? Easy:
The IRB reckon to have a total audience for the entire [Rugby World Cup] tournament - all 48 matches - of around 4 billion, about 20 per cent up on the 2003 figure.
That sounds wildly exaggerated until IRB spokesman Greg Thomas explains :"The way the industry calculates this is to take a snapshot of the number of viewers every 15 minutes. So if somebody watches a programme for an hour, they are counted four times."
Consider that a rugby match lasts at least 80 minutes, that a combination of added time, half-time and pre and post-match analysis can take that up to something like two hours and it is not hard to see how those numbers can mount up pretty rapidly. Just think how many of that 4 billion you have accounted for by yourself while watching this tournament.
(ESPN Scrum, 2007 - espnscrum.com/scrum/rugby/story/72578.html)