If there was ever evidence of the importance that sport plays in our everyday lives it must be the recently released list of the top 50 viewed TV programmes for 2018 (here). Sport dominates the list with 26 of the top 50 programmes comprising of live sporting events. Three sports are represented in this list, Football, Rugby and GAA with 14, 9 and 3 events respectively. The fact that Football and Rugby were particularly prevalent is not entirely surprising given that the FIFA Football World Cup took place last year and also given the success of the Ireland rugby team in winning the Grand Slam and Six Nations tournament and attaining a clean sweep of wins in the Autumn internationals including a win over the World Champions, New Zealand.
An examination of these figures over time can provide some additional insights. I collected equivalent data for the top 20 viewed TV programmes from 2012 to 2018. The first graph below shows the number of sporting events in the top 20 across these years and a breakdown by sport. The first observation is that the number of sporting events with high viewership figures is generally increasing over time with 5 sporting events in the top 20 in 2012 and 2013, 12 in 2015 and 2016 and 10 in 2018. Rugby and Football figure prominently with these figures, being boosted by Ireland’s involvement in the 2015 Rugby World Cup and EURO 2016. But even in Non-World Cup years such as 2017 the figures hold up well with a relatively even distribution across the three sports.