More than 60 percent of African football enthusiasts will be watching the FIFA World Cup from home in 2018, in a sharp shift in the continent’s football viewing habits, from the traditional community viewing, that has opened a potential home audience of over 600 million, according to a survey by GeoPoll, the leading provider of fast, high-quality research from
GeoPoll today released a report revealing that across Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania, 70 to 83 percent of African women plan to watch the World Cup and 86 to 99 percent of men – with the variation being between different nations.
The highest ‘watch’ will be in Ghana, where 99 percent of men surveyed say they will be following the tournament.
Altogether, with Africa’s population estimated at 1.26 billion in 2016, this level of engagement by African viewers now opens up one of the largest football audiences in the world.
Moreover, in a trend driven by hurtling Internet penetration, and the rising levels of TV ownership – up 22 percent since 2014 – Africans have moved into their homes to watch the World Cup, and away from viewing in bars and cafes.
Overall, in its survey of 2400 respondents, GeoPoll found 74 percent of Ghanaians plan to watch the World Cup from home, 70 percent of South Africans, 60 percent of Nigerians, 66 percent of Senegalese, and 61 percent of Tanzanians. Only in Kenya, famous for its football bars and clubs did a more moderate 52 percent plan to watch from home, with 30 percent of Kenyan men planning to watch the cup in clubs and restaurants.
However, viewing has become no less social, with most Africans, and especially men, expecting to watch the cup at home with friends.
Altogether, the survey confirms the World Cup’s position as the most watched event by African viewers, in a bonanza that has this year seen broadcasters Econet Media (Kwese), Supersport, SABC, Star Times and CANAL+ awarded the media rights to air the contest across Africa, and national channels now racing for partnerships to offer live coverage.
With Africa’s high smartphone penetration, the cup will also see African football fans following their teams on news services and engaging heavily on social media. In 2012, sport accounted for just 1.3 percent of TV programming, but 41 percent of TV-related tweets, according to one Nielsen study.
“Africa has been presumed to lag behind when it comes to the viewership of global TV events such as the World Cup due to a lack of real-time data on TV viewership. However, GeoPoll’s rapid means of conducting research and our daily audience measurement data show clearly that TV viewership in Africa has grown, and we expect to see record numbers tuning in for the World Cup,” said Nick Becker, CEO of GeoPoll.
In 2014, according to GeoPoll data collected during the last World Cup, about 15 percent of all adults aged 15+, or approximately 25 million adults from five nations surveyed (Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda), watched Nigeria vs Iran game, making it the most-watched game by Africans.
The 2014 GeoPoll survey reported a gender split in football viewing of 67 percent male to 33 percent female, with men consistently tuning in to games, but African women most likely to watch games involving African teams. In 2018, women are far more likely to watch the sport.
Football fandom has shifted radically in Africa in recent years, from male-dominated stadiums and clubs, to now huge packs of female fans, in a growth that commentators have attributed to changing lifestyles.
Likewise, Africans are supporting their own teams the most vigorously, with GeoPoll’s findings showing that while few Africans expect an African win, most will be supporting the African qualifiers. Across all countries surveyed, 31% indicated they will be rooting for Nigeria, 20% for Senegal, and 23% for Egypt.
Overall, Brazil is the most favored team to win the World Cup, with 22% indicating they believe Brazil will once again win. However, Senegalese and Nigerian fans are optimistic about their chances, with 44% of Nigerians and 49% of Senegalese indicating they believe their respective countries will win this year’s World Cup.
“GeoPoll’s data supports the notion that football is undoubtedly the most popular sport in Africa, with over 68 percent of the population interested in football and 86 percent planning to watch the World Cup,” said Nick.
For sponsors, the shift to home viewing is also set to open new priorities, with few African fans aware of any sponsors, except Coca-Cola.