Television audiences watching the AFC Champions League have continued to soar with the continental club championship notching up record figures during the Group Stage of the 2012 edition, reports the official Asian Football Confederation website.
Viewing figures across Australia, China, Japan, Korea and the Middle East have seen significant increases over the competition's showing during 2011, with cumulative audiences rising by an impressive 46 percent.
Ratings across the four nations and the Middle East show almost 200 million viewers - with a combined reach of more than 671 million - tuned in to watch Asia's leading clubs face off in the Group Stage of the annual continental club championship.
Such has been the popularity of Chinese Super League champions Guangzhou Evergrande that games featuring the club from southern China occupy the top five most-watched matches in the competition in China so far this season.
The cumulative TV audience in China for the 2012 AFC Champions League is already 47 million ahead of the 58 million total achieved for the whole competition in 2011.
The competition's popularity among TV viewers is also reflected in Japan, where the AFC Champions League garnered 86.37 million viewers for the Group Stage, an increase of 43 percent over figures at the same stage in 2011.
And the story is much the same in the Middle East where 19.46 million viewers watched the Group Stage of the competition, an increase of 6.56 million - or 51 percent - on those recorded in 2011.
Those figures are sure to increase when the latter stages of the competition kick off in late September, with three clubs from Saudi Arabia involved in the quarterfinals.
"I am happy that the AFC Champions League viewership continues to increase and this is because of the well-planned and intense efforts of the AFC to raise the quality of play on the pitch as well as the all-round tournament standards," said AFC Acting President Zhang Jilong.
"The rise in television audience numbers also underlines our belief that we are headed in the right direction as far as the continent's premier club competition is concerned. This is good news for all our sponsors too as their brands get maximum visibility and exposure in Asia."
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