The UEFA Champions League final is commonly one of the world’s most-viewed annual sporting events. And viewers are not the only ones rallying: sports are a huge draw for media buyers, and the payoffs for rights holders are rising, Nielsen assured in its latest report.
In 2018, nearly 106 million people tuned in when Real Madrid won the championship over Liverpool —the largest audience in the last five finals. It was the Spanish giant’s third-straight UEFA Champions League crown, fourth in five years. The 2019 and 2021 editions were all-England Finals, resulting in lower viewership interest in other parts of the world.
This year’s Champions League final —a rematch between Real Madrid and Liverpool— promised to draw an especially large audience. According to Nielsen Gracenote’s Euro Club Index, a ranking of European football clubs, 2022 marked the first time since 2011 that two of the three best teams in Europe met for a final since FC Barcelona beat out Manchester United for the cup in 2011. In fact, nine of the world’s 20 best players on Gracenote’s Global Player Index took the field during the final this year.
The championship also underscored the recent dominance of Premier League clubs in the Champions League finals. Since 2018, English clubs have taken five out of eight Champions League final places and won two of the last three competitions. According to Nielsen, this improvement in the fortunes of Premier League clubs internationally coincides with growth in the media rights income for the competition.
Since the 2010-13 media rights package was sold for nearly $5 billion, the Premier League has increased the value of its domestic and international media rights by over 170% to $12.8 billion for the 2022-25 package. By the 2018-19 season, Premier League teams were dividing $7 billion more dollars in media rights fees than a decade earlier. 2019 also marks the first time a Premier League club, Liverpool, won the UEFA Champions League title since 2012.
“As the club fixture with the biggest global audience, the UEFA Champions League final provides a solid return on investment for brands and rights holders. The increased international audience provides teams and their sponsors access to a broader set of viewers and fans who would otherwise watch them in their domestic leagues each week,” the report said.
According to Nielsen, the increase in audience size is driving an increase in value for broadcasting rights. UK pay-TV broadcaster BT Sport, for example, agreed to a $1.5 billion deal to retain exclusive broadcast rights to the UEFA Champions League, Europa League, and the new third-tier Europa Conference League from 2021 to 2024.