- Associated Press - Thursday, December 15, 2016

GENEVA (AP) - Boosted by Cristiano Ronaldo’s title run and Iceland’s feel-good story, the 2016 European Championship attracted 2 billion people to watch live on television.

The total live audience for the expanded 24-team, 51-match tournament grew to almost 5 billion viewers, according to UEFA research published Thursday.

The research says 600 million viewers watched some of Portugal’s 1-0 extra-time win over host France in the final.

The final attracted 284.4 million as an “average in-home global audience” - the industry-standard audit tracking viewers minute-by-minute.

The 20 extra matches created by having eight more teams added 1.1 billion viewers to the overall TV audience.

The 2 billion individual viewers was an increase of 100 million on the Euro 2012 figures, UEFA said.

Bigger audiences in Brazil and China helped raise the totals.

“The newly created (1300 GMT) match slot had the biggest impact on Asian audiences,” UEFA said, which scheduled the earliest Euro 2012 kickoffs at 1600 GMT.

Among matches kicking off in a prime 9 p.m. slot in China, the peak audience there was 17.6 million for France’s 2-1 win over Ireland in the round of 16.

Euro 2016 TV rights earned UEFA 1.05 billion euros ($1.1 billion) from 130 broadcast partners.

Ronaldo’s quest for a first national-team title helped draw viewers to the final, who mostly stayed despite his exit from injury midway through the first half.

The 284 million figure made it the second most-watched game in European Championship history. The average audience of the most-viewed match was 299 million when Spain beat Italy 4-0 in the Euro 2012 final.

In comparison, the 2014 World Cup final drew a 570.1 million average for Germany’s 1-0 extra-time win over Argentina in Rio de Janeiro.

Average audiences in Brazil for the Euro 2016 final topped 25.7 million, watching on three channels: TV Globo, Bandierantes and Sport TV.

Globo averaged more than 13 million viewers for each live match it broadcast, for a 13.2 percent increase on Euro 2012, UEFA’s research said.

In China, the final’s average audience was 8 million in China, and United States broadcaster ESPN averaged 5.3 million.

Still, no nation could match Iceland’s support for its team, which was a surprise quarterfinalist in its major tournament debut.

On the island of 330,000 people, while thousands had traveled to France to watch the team, 99.8 percent of all TV viewers during Iceland’s 2-1 win over Austria were tuned in to the team sealing its place in the knockout rounds.

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