MUMBAI: World Cup viewing figures in India are up on 2010, despite the event taking place in an unfavourable time zone, with at least 80m estimated to have watched the final game live.

Prasana Krishnan, business head at Sony Six, the official FIFA broadcaster in India, noted that many games were played after midnight and that the reach and numbers achieved had been driven during the tournament's group stages when some games kicked off at 9.30pm.

"The 2018 World Cup should generate better viewership since it is taking place in Russia," he said.

Tarun Nigam, director at marketing agency PM Media Solutions, told exchange4media that people had been talking about the event in the social media space "like a morning newspaper".

Late night viewing was not a problem for fans, he said, with football becoming increasingly popular and set to be the second sport for youth in India. He suggested there was now a fatigue factor related to cricket.

That was a point echoed by KV Sridhar, chief creative officer, Sapient Nitro, India, who noted that the test match being played between India and England at the same time as the World Cup peaked "seemed almost like a secret game" as people were focused on events in Brazil.

Writing in the Business Standard, Sridhar observed the 2014 World Cup was expected to reach 60% more viewers than the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The total of 100m compared favourably to the recent ICC T20 World Cup cricket tournament. "Football has become a close second when it comes to sports viewership in India," he stated.

Further, brands were equally enthusiastic about the FIFA World Cup, buying more TV slots even as ad rates increased as the event progressed.

Debraj Tripathy, managing director at agency Mediacom, had seen a difference in the kind and quality of TV sponsors in India with every FIFA World Cup. The only thing missing, he said, "is India doing well in the game".

Sridhar expected that the launch of the India Super League in September would help channel enthusiasm for and investment in the game but "the strong pull needed will only come when people are emotionally attached to the game with an Indian team".

Data sourced from exchange4media, Business Standard; Additional content by Warc staff