This weekend’s Milan derby will, for the first time ever, be played in the lunchtime slot, with kick-off scheduled for 12.30 local time. While this kick-off time is certainly nothing new for Serie A, the timing has been purposefully designed to take advantage of both clubs’ increasing popularity in Asia and, as a result, to increase the potential TV audience to 862 million viewers.
While the lunchtime kick-off has not been universally popular with coaches – Napoli’s Maurizio Sarri, for instance, recently said “I hate playing at lunchtime” – it has been a popular slot with Italian broadcasters. In 2016/17, Sky Italia has had an average TV audience of 605,351 viewers for the early kick-offs, peaking at 1.15 million viewers for Juventus-Lazio, while Mediaset‘s average is slightly lower at 556,000.
As the early kick-off means the match, which will be shown by 39 broadcasters worldwide, will be prime-time viewing across Asia (the match will start at 18.30 local time in Beijing), the total global audience could be as much as 862 million people across the world. If the TV audience reaches this figure, it would be the most-watched game in Italian football history.
It is no coincidence that the Asia-Pacific region has the largest potential audience; though there are only around half the number of broadcasters compared to Europe (11 to 20), they will reach a potential audience of 566 million (333 million in China alone), more than the other four continents combined. Europe’s 20 broadcasters will reach a potential audience of 186 million, and while there will be some competition from early kick-offs in the Premier League (Tottenham-Bournemouth) and La Liga (Deportivo La Coruña-Malaga), neither fixture comes close to matching the lustre of the Derby della Madonnina.
There is a sizeable TV audience in Central and South America, where three broadcasters will reach a potential 98 million viewers, while there are an additional 3 million potential viewers in North America. Africa and the Middle East, meanwhile, has an estimated audience of 11 million viewers.
While these may just be mere statistics for the moment, the number of global viewers for one of Serie A’s most iconic matches could be crucial in the coming months, as the league’s TV rights are up for renewal in the summer. The Premier League has enjoyed increasingly lucrative domestic and international TV rights deals, and if Serie A has ambitions of increasing its own revenue then marketing itself successfully in key geographic territories will be vital. This weekend’s Milan derby, at 12.30, will be an important test.