For the first FIFA World Cup fixture in Qatar, which saw Ecuador beat host nation Qatar 2-0, around 1.3 million Belgians tuned in to watch the game on either French-language RTBF or Flemish TV channel Eén, according to statistics published by the Centre for Media Information.
The opening ceremony of the event was followed by 184,391 viewers on French-language TV station La Une, while 726,699 Belgians watched the game on Eén. Many Belgians, mostly living in the southern regions of Belgium, chose to follow French coverage of the event, with 138,065 Belgians tuning into TF1 to watch the match.
Around 51,000 French speakers used RTBF’s Auvio internet-TV service to watch the match, RTBF also noted.
In comparison, the opening match of the World Cup in 2018 on RTBF attracted over four times the number of spectators, compared to this year. This can be, in part, explained by the match taking place on a late Thursday afternoon, as opposed to a Sunday.
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Another factor is clearly the controversial character of this year’s World Cup, with host-nation Qatar facing a boycott by many viewers over its poor human rights record and treatment of minorities. In Belgium, several bars have refused to put the game on for fans and several municipalities have cancelled their traditional fan zones.
One of Brussels’ most famous bars, Kitty O’Sheas, located in the European Quarter, has said that it will organise so-called “ethical screenings” of matches, by blacking out advertising as much as possible.