A FIFA taskforce has proposed that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar should take place in November and December, instead of the usual months of June and July. This would disrupt the domestic football leagues, which would normally be in full swing, but moving the World Cup to winter could boost UK broadcasters’ revenues by about £12 million, according to new research by ZenithOptimedia.
The World Cup always attracts large numbers of passionate, engaged viewers, including many who are otherwise hard to reach on TV (notably upmarket young men), making it particularly valuable to advertisers in the drinks, auto and telecoms sectors. Viewing figures are likely to be even higher than usual in the winter. People are much more likely to stay in and watch television when the nights are cold and drawing in – viewing figures are typically 15%-20% higher in November-December than they are in June-July. Casual viewers, who would not normally make a special effort to watch a game, are more likely to be at home and available to view, while fans are less likely to go out to watch in a pub, where their viewing will go unmeasured. So the supply of viewers will be higher.
Demand from advertisers will also increase. The last quarter of the year is the most important for most advertisers, as consumers prepare for Christmas, and airtime prices are significantly higher in winter than they are in summer. ZenithOptimedia estimates that a winter World Cup would generate an additional £50 million in UK TV adspend, which would not otherwise be spent in 2022, compared to £38 million for a summer World Cup. The proposed delay would therefore increase the value of the World Cup to broadcasters by £12 million.
Most of this extra value would go to ITV, which holds the rights to the 2022 World Cup jointly with the BBC, but other channels would benefit too. Because demand is so high around World Cups, advertisers that target different demographics often move budgets earlier in year, and so we would expect some of the activity that would have taken place in November and December on ITV to move to September and October across all channels.
The challenge for the broadcasters, especially ITV, would be to maintain the performance of their flagship winter programmes while fitting them in around the World Cup matches. Whether or not ITV is broadcasting the X Factor series 19 or I’m a Celebrity series 22, it will need to ensure that its biggest shows are not side-lined by the football.