Against a backdrop of nationwide strikes and the lingering threat of terrorism, Euro 2016 kicked off in France last night with the French national team facing Romania. Following an opening ceremony that included Can-Can girls, a little Edith Piaf and performers inexplicably dressed as giant lips, the evening went off without a hitch — unless of course you were a Romania supporter. Les Bleus were the winners at the Stade de France in a 2-1 victory thanks to a stunning left-footer by Dimitri Payet at the 89th minute. France‘s TF1, which is sharing matches with M6 (BeIN Sport has all the games), drew 14.4M viewers from 9 PM local, setting a record audience for 2016 with a 54.8 share — also a record for an opening Euro Cup match. Play peaked on TF1 with 16.5M viewers at the end of the match. This is the best score for the French national team since the World Cup in 2014.
There has been speculation that French broadcasters might pull in higher ratings due to the ongoing strikes and fears over terrorism following the Paris Attacks last November and the carnage in Brussels in March. Access has been made difficult in some cases — indeed the Stade de France, where suicide bombings set off the deadly November attacks, had large empty sections last night as seen on television.
Neighboring countries were equally glued to their TVs last night. Germany’s ZDF drew more than 15.47M viewers to the France-Romania game. That’s a massive jump from the 2012 Euro kick-off which pulled in 9.96M as hosts Poland faced Greece. The German share for soccer last night was 50%.
In Spain, Telecinco handily won the night with 4.5M viewers and a 33.8% share. In the UK, ITV saw a peak of 8.6M with an average 6.7M watching from the beginning of coverage of the opening ceremony. That’s the best kick-off for a European championship since at least 2000, ITV says.
The mega-ratings will have an impact on moviegoing this weekend, and we’ll have a look at that in my international box office report on Sunday.
Tonight’s big match is England v Russia at the Vélodrome in Marseille. Security is intensified in the port town after England football fans were involved in violent clashes on Thursday and Friday night. Riot police were forced to use tear gas to disperse the hooligans. British police had earlier stopped notorious hooligan, the so-called Pig of Marseille, from exiting the UK by taking his passport. Seven potential agitators who planned to travel to France were also arrested in the UK. According to The Independent, officers at British ports will stop individuals whose behavior appears to pose a threat.