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Handball’s popularity – Spain saw benefits from hosting and winning the World Championship

TV viewing numbers for the men’s World Championship in handball, which was held in Spain this past January, were notable compared to the previous World Championship in 2011. Two of European handball’s primary markets, cf. Spain and Germany, reported strong television audiences associated with the event. In comparison with the event in 2011, Spain experienced that the ‘average audience’ for the 2013 event grew by 75 % (see figure 1 below). In contrast to the development in Spain, total tournament audiences declined in Germany when measuring the numbers for the 2011 event against the numbers for 2013 event. Though, the picture was different when analyzing the games for the German national team. That number went up by 22 %.

Figure 1: Analysis of TV viewing for handball’s men’s World Championship




Average audience

1.348 mio.

1.293 mio.

Average audience for national team matches

3.769 mio.

4.581 mio.

Most watched match

Germany vs. Spain

5.308 mio.

group stage


Germany vs. Spain

6.977 mio.



No. of hours broadcast




ARD, ZDF, Sport1

ARD, ZDF, Sport1




Average audience



Average audience for national team matches


1.015 mio.

Most watched match

Denmark vs. Spain


Semi-Final (Teledeporte)

Spain vs. Denmark

3.644 mio.



No. of hours broadcast




Teledeporte, Sportmania

LA1, Teledeporte

Source: SportBusiness Intelligence, Eurodata TV Worldwide, AGF/GfK Fernsehforschung, Kantar Media/Spain, TNS Gallup/TV-Meter, TNS Gallup


Spain witnessed a climb in television viewing due to its national team’s sporting success and the fact that public service broadcaster TVE shifted coverage of the semi-final and the final to its key channel LA1 from its digital-terrestrial sports channel Teledeporte. Pulling 3.464 mio. viewers, the final boosted the average audience for Spain’s national team matches during the tournament to 1.015 mio. That reflects an impressive growth from an ‘average audience for national team matches’ in 2011 of 271,000. Spain had relative good sporting success in 2011 as well, cf. securing a spot in the semi-final (a match which had an audience of 980,000), but the numbers were significantly higher in 2013. To put things in perspective, the 2013 final audience of 3.464 mio. matches the numbers of other and more popular sports events in the last 18 months, e.g. the French Open men’s tennis final between Rafael Nadal (Spain) and Novak Djokovic (the game had an audience of 3.62 mio.), the second to last stage of cycling’s La Vuelta (the isolated event had an audience of 2.54 mio.) and the 2011 Eurobasket final between Spain and France (the game had an audience of 4.73 mio.).

To underline the ‘meaning of sporting success’ and the ‘popularity of a sport in a country’s cultural DNA’ in terms of impact on television audiences, the recent success of Denmark’s men’s national team in handball paints a clear picture. Handball is one of the biggest sports in Denmark and the national team’s win against Croatia in the semi-final created a center of attention resulting in one of Denmark’s top audiences of the last 10 years.


SportBusiness International (2013). Vol. 188 (April 2013).

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