VATICAN CITY — Italian television has seen its viewership ratings of papal events skyrocket since Pope Francis’ election.
The number of people tuning in to watch the pope celebrate major liturgical events and his Sunday Angelus has “soared,” according to the Italian daily, “Il Fatto Quotidiano.”
The Italian state television channel, RAI 1, reported a jump of almost three-quarters of a million people watching its coverage of the noon Angelus.
Viewership of the weekly pre-“pranzo” prayer went from 1.56 million people in 2012 to 2.27 million people this year, “Il Fatto” reported. Not bad for a country of 60.9 million people with just 30.3 million televisions sets.
Audience share of RAI 1′s papal Mass broadcasts saw an even bigger boost going from 15.82 percent during Benedict XVI’s pontificate to 22.35 percent today. That translates, the paper said, into nearly one in three households tuning in to Pope Francis to watch him celebrate Mass.
Pope Francis’ first Angelus address in March grabbed a 45 percent audience share and the Via Crucis a few weeks later nabbed 36 percent — numbers that are usually the norm during live coverage of Italians’ other “religion:” national soccer playoffs. In a play on words, the Italian paper said when it comes to audience draw, “a Mass (Messa) is worth Messi,” the champion Argentine soccer star.
TV 2000, the television station of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, had its day of fame when it broadcast live Pope Francis’ visit to Assisi earlier this month, making the tiny station the 5th-most watched channel that day, ahead of some major commercial channels.
The Italian all-news channel, SkyTG24 is giving more airtime than ever before to the pope’s Sunday Angelus, the paper said, because “when Francis is on air, people don’t change the channel.”