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BBC socks Web rivals via Cup coverage

Record 1 million people visited sports site

The BBC’s online coverage of World Cup soccer in Germany is attracting five times as many visitors as tournament organizer FIFA’s World Cup site.

That’s according to research conducted by Nielsen/NetRatings, the online audience measurement group, which reported a 51% hike in weekly U.K. auds for sports and gambling Web sites since the tourney began on June 9.

The figures show a record 1 million people visited a sports site on Sunday, when England beat Ecuador 1-0.

“This shows what a massive boost the World Cup gives to the online space,” said Nielsen/NetRatings’ Alex Burmaster.

The BBC’s share of the online sports audience is bigger than its share of the TV or radio aud in the U.K. This state of affairs infuriates commercial rivals, who claim the pubcaster’s online activities distort the market and make it impossible for them to compete.

BBC Sport achieved a unique audience of 1.58 million people last week. Each visitor spent an average of 11 minutes on the site, according to Nielsen/NetRatings.

But according to the BBC’s own research, this figure underestimates the success of its World Cup online offerings.

“On a normal day we get about 2 million unique users, but we’re getting at least 3 million a day at the moment,” said BBC Sports Interactive editor Ben Gallop.

Visits from overseas are said to account for about a third of the traffic.

The pubcaster’s nearest rival, Sky Sports, had an audience of 423,000 spending an average of five minutes online, according to Nielsen/NetRatings.

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