KIEV, Ukraine (AP) – A global television audience of 250 million viewers will watch Spain play Italy in the European Championship final, UEFA predicted on Friday.
Official ratings already achieved by Euro 2012 matches suggests the final on Sunday will beat the 237 million average audience for Spain's title-winning victory against Germany four years ago.
''I think it's a strong performance and we're happy so far,'' UEFA marketing director Guy-Laurent Epstein told The Associated Press.
Average rating is acknowledged as the most credible audited audience figure, and counts TV viewers who watch for at least 30 minutes. Definitive worldwide figures take several months to finalize.
Epstein said UEFA expects the match to reach 350 million viewers who will see at least one minute of the action in Kiev.
Euro 2012 has provided a good return for broadcasters in more than 200 territories who paid a combined ?840 million ($1.07 billion) for media rights. They contributed 62 percent of UEFA's total commercial revenue of ?1.345 billion ($1.7 billion) for the 31-match tournament.
German and Italian broadcasters had a combined 50 million viewers for their national teams' semifinals match on Thursday; the Italy vs. England quarterfinal last Sunday drew more than 20 million TV viewers in each country; Poland set a national record audience with a 14.7 million average for its match against Russia.
High ratings suggest national teams continue to outperform club football, despite the increasing popularity of UEFA's Champions League competition and the English Premier League's worldwide appeal.
''The 'appointment to view' in national team football is as strong as ever,'' Epstein said.
Still, the European title match is a distant second to the World Cup final.
FIFA reported an ''average in-home global audience'' of 530.9 million people to watch Spain beat the Netherlands two years ago.
The record sports event audience is the 593 million average credited to the 2008 Beijing Olympics opening ceremony. It was boosted by huge ratings in China which won't be repeated when the London Olympics opens next month with a ceremony starting when it will be 4 a.m. in Beijing.
In comparison, the Super Bowl drew a record U.S. average of 111.3 million television viewers watching the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots last February.
That figure likely has been beaten almost daily at Euro 2012, with UEFA forecasting an average audience of 150 million for each match broadcast slot.
On Sunday, at least 22 million viewers are expected in Italy and more than 13 million in Spain, Epstein said.
''The neutral audiences will also be good for the final,'' he suggested. ''With two Latin countries playing, I think the Americas will follow this quite strongly. In the United States, there is more interest than ever.''
UEFA previously said that ESPN's English-language broadcasts averaged more than 1 million viewers for group-stage matches - an increase of 82 percent on Euro 2008.
Ratings would rise even higher if people watching matches in bars and public viewing zones were included in official figures.
About 400,000 people gathered at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin to watch Germany beat Greece 4-2 in the quarterfinals, and the Piazza del Popolo in Rome was packed on Thursday.
''The research we have done is that one in five watch out of home and that doesn't count,'' Epstein said.