10 Jan 2020

The last calendar year brought unprecedented success for the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), as record-breaking figures were posted across TV, social media and online streaming of the world's most widely participated sport.

Socially awesome: table tennis turns a million times stronger!

For the first time ever, the ITTF’s social media community grew by over 1 million fans in a single calendar year: up from 2,802,725 in 2018 to 3,845,493 in 2019, marking a 37% increase (excluding itTV and Zhibo TV subscribers).

YouTube was the social media platform to enjoy the biggest growth in 2019 with a 46% increase in subscribers (430,000 in total). This merely scratches the surface of a phenomenal year in which the channel also witnessed 153% increases both in terms of total impressions (over 1.2 billion) and total views (over 115 million) and almost tripled total watch time (8.6 million hours).

Major gains were made also on Facebook, with the ITTF adding over 200,000 followers to its total of 700,000 on the platform by the end of 2019. Significantly, the number of video views tripled from approximately 50 million to over 150 million in the space of just 12 months, while reach (237 million) and impressions (320 million) grew by 80% and total engagement (4.3 million) virtually doubled.

Instagram followers grew by 41% to close in on the 250,000 follower milestone with total likes (12.3 million) and videos views (44.4 million) almost doubling over the course of the year.

The positive trend continued on Twitter with video views (40 million) also close to doubling and total impressions (96 million) almost tripled.

Table Tennis continues to trend on Chinese platforms

It is no secret that table tennis keeps catching the hearts and minds of fans across the Asian continent and the proof is in the ITTF’s ever-increasing Chinese social media figures.

On Weibo the ITTF recorded a net increase of 625,000 followers to bring the 2019 total to over 2.35 million, while significant gains were made also in terms of video views (435 million) and fan engagement (2 million).

Popular social messaging app WeChat registered a collective 2.8 million video views, while Chinese news app Toutiao.com weighed in with an impressive 221 million recommendations and 14 million video views over the course of 2019.

Furthermore, extended table tennis coverage on Chinese TV platform Tencent Video saw views rise to over 12 million.

Website and web streaming success

An increased appetite for live table tennis in HD quality is more than satisfied by itTV and the ITTF’s official online streaming platform broke new ground in 2019, witnessing a 69% growth in consumption on the previous year. Adding 327,231 more subscribers, a total of 16.6 million sessions were registered throughout the year.

2019 was a year to remember also for ITTF.com with 4.6 million users accounting for 22 million sessions and over 50 million individual page views.

ITTF website followers are known to be on the go with over 2.6 million users visiting the website via mobile rather than desktop and tablet.

“Compared to previous years, table tennis is now unrecognisable in terms of its colossal media coverage across TV, social media, website and web streaming. The ground-breaking achievements posted in 2019 promise for even bigger and better things to come in 2020!” – Matt Pound, ITTF Marketing Director

Watch it to believe it!

Total video views across Youtube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter rose from 155 million to 350 million in 2019: sure proof of the ITTF’s success in harnessing the power of video to showcase the extraordinary talent of its star athletes.

With video content clearly king once again, we take a look at some of the biggest hits across platforms:

On YouTube, fans flocked to watch the epic semi-final highlights of China’s Ma Long taking on Japanese prodigy Tomokazu Harimoto at the ITTF World Tour Platinum China Open. Ma Long’s victory, crucial in his march towards a record-breaking 28th ITTF World Tour men’s singles title of his career, registered a total of over 1 million views and 14 million impressions!

‘The Dragon’ was also the centre of attention when he faced compatriot Fan Zhendong at the ITTF-ATTU Asian Cup final, for which match highlights were viewed for a collective 109,339 hours – that’s nearly 12 years and 4 months!

While there can be no surprises that star players will always attract extra attention, the power of archive footage cannot be underestimated. Of the record-breaking total 150 million views on Facebook, the best performing video of the year came from an incredible exhibition match at the 1994 Qatar Open. The eye-catching trickshots on show got fans discussing the video for 9,686,126 minutes – that’s 18 years and 4 months worth of watch time!

The pattern across Instagram was inclined more to the ITTF’s millennial fan base, who showed their appreciation for the abstract moments that table tennis can so readily throw up just like this – for a colossal 124,557 views! Japan’s stars also featured prominently among their favourite videos, with a 5-year-old Mima Ito garnering the most likes of all Instagram videos and Koki Niwa’s spectacular shots video the highest performer on IGTV.

Twitter followers confirmed their fondness for the ironic aspects of the sport, while Puerto Rican star Adriana Diaz’ incredible No Look, No Way return of serve hit the heights of 480,973 views and 141,439 minutes (3 months and 2 days) of total viewing time!

Eyes on the prize: TV viewership keeps rising!

While the rise of OTT streaming platforms and mobile video have changed the landscape of sports viewing across the world, nonetheless fans continued to turn on TV screens to witness more spectacular rallies and unbelievable technical skill of international table tennis stars, as the ITTF again broke its own records for TV viewership across the globe.

A grand total of 1.41 billion unique viewers tuned in to watch major events during 2019 (World Table Tennis Championships, World Cups and World Tour – excluding December’s Grand Finals event, with final numbers still to be confirmed). 89% of the viewers were on Chinese Central Television (FTA).

On a worldwide level, air time more than doubled from 3,145 hours in 2018 to 6,911 hours in 2019 (8.2% on Chinese Central Television).

The five most watched events were the World Championships (220 million unique viewers), the Team World Cup (175 million), China Open (110 million), Men’s World Cup (105 million) and Japan Open (101 million).

Now for more records to be broken in 2020 in what will be the biggest and best year to date for international table tennis!

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