"To put the growth into perspective, the cumulative audience watching the Paralympics has grown by 127 per cent in the last 12 years."
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has announced that the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games were the most viewed in history attracting a record cumulative audience of more than 4.1 billion people.
According to Nielsen Sports figures, published to mark six months on from the Games, the Rio 2016 Paralympics saw the global cumulative TV audience increase by 7 per cent on the 3.8 billion people that watched London 2012.
Last September's Games which involved 4,328 athletes from 159 countries also benefited from more broadcast coverage than ever before. In total 154 countries showed the Games, 39 more than London 2012 and nearly double the 80 who covered Beijing 2008. As a result, the total number of hours broadcast increased to nearly 5,110 - more than the total hours broadcast for Beijing 2008 and London 2012 combined.
In addition to the record TV audiences on traditional platforms, more than one billion people globally were engaged in the Games via digital media channels.
Alexis Schaefer, the IPC's Commercial and Marketing Director, said: "We are delighted that the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games smashed all broadcast records, especially at a time when audiences for many sport events are decreasing across traditional linear platforms.
"The Games were broadcast in more countries than ever before, more hours were shown and the numbers watching have never been higher. Nearly all markets increased their broadcast hours and we managed to grow both the domestic and international audiences.
"To put the growth into perspective, the cumulative audience watching the Paralympics has grown by 127 per cent in the last 12 years. The Athens 2004 Games were watched by 1.8 billion people in 25 countries, whilst last September's Paralympics were seen by 4.1 billion in 154 countries.
"For Rio 2016 we saw a shift away from relive and delayed broadcasts towards more live viewing and digital consumption. The coverage the Games also received through news and sport magazines shows increased significantly whilst the numbers consuming the Games via digital media also reached record highs," added Schaefer.
Looking ahead to Tokyo 2020, Japanese broadcasters, including rights holder NHK, showed more than 401 hours of coverage from the Rio 2016 Paralympics reaching a cumulative 708 million people; only Italy with 557 hours broadcast more.
A number of broadcasters also showed more coverage than ever before.
In Germany there was 332 hours of coverage across all channels. Thanks to unprecedented coverage from France Televisions, 115 hours were screened in France, whilst in the USA 77 hours were broadcast.
In China, the Games reached a cumulative audience of 1.07 billion people as Chinese athletes topped the medals table for the fourth consecutive Paralympics.
Domestically, Brazilian broadcasters screened 247 hours of coverage, reaching a cumulative audience of 472 million people. Channel 4 followed up its award winning coverage of London 2012 with coverage that reached half of the British population, partly thanks to a stunning three minute long commercial that was the most shared Olympic or Paralympic campaign of 2016 on social media.
"I think it is testament to the stories and ever improving performances of Paralympians that nearly every country around the world increased its Paralympic airtime for Rio 2016," said Schaefer. "People are switching on and not just seeing top class sporting action, but they are being inspired by what they are seeing.
"In Japan, NHK showed more hours than ever before and achieved record audiences. To have so many people engaged in the Paralympic Games in the domestic market with four years to go is an outstanding platform from which to build towards Tokyo 2020.
"Ahead of Rio 2016, the IPC purposefully moved away from single Games agreements, to multi-Games partnerships with broadcasters. The result was stronger and continuous engagement from many broadcasters who helped build their audiences with Para sport programming in between the Games. Due to its success, this is something we will certainly be continuing as we look ahead to PyeongChang 2018, Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022."
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