ACL continues to prosper as viewership soars

The AFC Champions League success story continued in 2012 as television audience ratings for the continent's premier club football competition rose to 262.4 million.

Guangzhou Evergrande vs FC Tokyo

With overall ratings increasing by 90.5 million, Australia, China, Japan and Korea Republic combined to contribute 224.7 million viewers, which represented a 53% (71.8 million) increase on 2011 and a 78% (98.5 million) increase on 2010.
"Once again, as we have seen consistently throughout recent years, the popularity of the AFC Champions League continues to grow," said AFC Acting President Zhang Jilong.
"The TV audience figures for the 2012 season highlight further that football fans in Asia want to watch Asian club football in increasing numbers and they are testimony to the growth within the AFC Champions League since its creation in 2002.
"We are confident that we can continue to build on the impressive growth that was shown last year and enhance further the AFC Champions League's position as the preeminent club competition in Asian football."
A total of six matches exceeded 10 million viewers, with Guangzhou Evergrande's meeting with FC Tokyo drawing the largest TV audience as the Round of 16 meeting attracted a rating of 19.2 million with an additional nine fixtures breaking the five million barrier compared to six the previous year.
On the back of Guangzhou's AFC Champions League debut, China's CCTV5 made the largest single channel contribution with a total audience of 91.4 million across 17 matches with an average of 5.37 million per match ensuring matches in the competition accounted for the top two football audiences of the year on the channel.
Japan's total audience rose 25% to 103 million with Nagoya Grampus' meetings with Adelaide United and Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma topping the list of most-watched matches.
Adelaide's run to the quarter-finals also helped Australia enjoy an increase of 96% compared to 2011, with the average audience rising by 60%.
With Middle East numbers included for a second year, figures rose 121% (20.1 million) to 36.8 million with the meeting between Iran's Foolad Sepahan and Saudi Arabia's Al Ahli in the quarter-finals topping the list of most-watched matches.
Within the region, Saudi Arabia witnessed an increase of 164% to 30.8 million thanks to Al Ittihad, Al Hilal and Al Ahli all reaching the quarter-finals, while in the United Arab Emirates the total audience rose by 41%.
The AFC Champions League final between Ulsan Hyundai and Al Ahli was the most watched match in Korea with the territory seeing total audience figures increase by 64% as the coveted title retuned to Korean hands for a third time in four years.
"Due to the good performance of Guangzhou Evergrande, the impact on Chinese national sport's broadcaster CCTV-5 was quickly visible with both a large increase in the number of games aired in 2012 and also in the audience numbers," said Pierre Justo, Director of Sports and Media at CSM Media Research-KantarSport, who compiled and analysed the data in China and Korea Republic.
"In the end the AFC Champions League held four of the top 10 football audiences of the year on CCTV-5, including the two best football audiences of the year.
"There is no doubt that if Guangzhou had made it to the semi-final and final, the ratings would have been even higher. Indeed CCTV-5 saw its ratings increase regularly from the start of the group stages to the final rounds, thanks to the success of Guangzhou."
Viewing figures for Japanese broadcasters were provided by Video Research, while Pan Arab Research Centre compiled the ratings for the Middle East and Repucom supplied the data for Australia.
"The AFC Champions League continues to go from strength-to-strength and these viewing figures highlight the impressive growth in the competition," said Nick Mould, President, East Asia for World Sport Group.
"Guangzhou Evergrande's emergence as one of a new breed of super-clubs from within the region highlights the increasing importance of club football in Asia and the commercial opportunities that are associated with that.
"With Guangzhou having been drawn to face Urawa Reds from Japan in the Group Stages of the 2013 AFC Champions League and a host of other big name clubs competing in this year's edition of the continental championship, we anticipate another exciting year of Asian club competition in 2013."

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