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Derby to attract worldwide TV audience of 900 million

It is already the biggest game of the new season but tomorrow\'s (Saturday) Manchester derby is also on course to become the most watched live match in top-flight history.

Published: 09th September 2016 08:39 AM  |   Last Updated: 09th September 2016 08:39 AM   |  A+A-

It is already the biggest game of the new season but tomorrow's (Saturday) Manchester derby is also on course to become the most watched live match in top-flight history.

Everything points to the first -Premier League showdown -between Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola being a record-breaker for global ratings.

The 12.30pm kick-off - the earliest the derby has started for more than 13 years - is poised to capture the largest possible worldwide

audience for the game between United and City at Old Trafford, which is being televised from New Zealand to the United States and -almost everywhere in between.

The Premier League's broadcast partners were yesterday anticipating unprecedented interest in the fixture, fuelled by the renewal of hostilities between Mourinho and Guardiola, the first meeting of the two most expensively assembled squads in history, and the prospect of a thrilling battle for the title between the clubs.

The fixture will also be played at a time when access to footage from the game has never been greater, with the Premier League confirming what it calls its "household reach" standing at a record 901?million, a figure that does even not -account for multiple viewers in many of those homes or people watching in pubs and clubs.

The match will be broadcast -between breakfast and bedtime in virtually all of the 190 countries in which the Premier League is shown thanks to the lunchtime kick-off in the UK, helping bring it to the -largest possible number of fans.

That is ironic because Britain is the one territory almost certain not to have record ratings for the match, with such fixtures traditionally drawing fewer viewers than Sunday teatime or Monday night games.

Sky Sports had little choice but to select the 12.30pm kick-off time after the derby was scheduled days before the first round of Champions League fixtures, in which City play on Tuesday. However, the man fronting Sky's coverage tomorrow declared the match had the potential to set a ratings record for a lunchtime game.

"I've never, ever done a game like this, where you're like a kid in a sweetshop," Simon Thomas told The Daily Telegraph. "You can just see the level of interest there

already is and, because of that, you'd like to think it would be up there in terms of audience figures."

United v Liverpool has traditionally been the biggest game in English football but Thomas claimed tomorrow's derby had generated more excitement among neutrals thanks to the Mourinho-Guardiola narrative and the amount of money spent by both United and City in the transfer window.

"I think a lot would now look at this as the big Premier League rivalry," he added.

The match will kick off later in the day in the Middle and Far East, where the appetite for Premier League football is insatiable.

Among the major rights holders in those territories is beIN SPORTS, whose coverage is anchored by the former faces of Sky Sports, Richard Keys and Andy Gray. "I can't think of a bigger Premier League game," said Keys, who will present tomorrow's match from Doha.

Premier League fixtures usually play second fiddle in the Middle East to games involving Barcelona and Real Madrid, with a Clasico watched by upwards of 70?million.

But Keys predicted tomorrow's derby could attract far more than the 10-20?million who usually tune in to English football. Hailing interest in the derby as bigger than ever, he said: "There's never been anything like this."

Adam Carruthers hosts Astro -Supersport's coverage of the -Premier League in Malaysia, where the match will kick off at prime time. "That is the best time to have it because it's 7.30pm," he said.

Mourinho v Guardiola will also be top of the agenda for NBCSN -anchor Rebecca Lowe, who will present tomorrow's match at breakfast time in the United States. "When I go on air at 6.30 Saturday morning, that's my selling point at the top of the show," she said.

Ratings for NBCSN's coverage of Premier League games and companion programmes have risen year on year since it was awarded the rights and were up 36 per cent last season. "We certainly are expecting this one to be a biggie," added Lowe, who even expected viewers on the west coast of America to tune in at what will be 4.30am their time.

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