World Cup in South Africa: Monitoring the Coverage

The opening game of the 2010 World Cup (played before breakfast on the West Coast), averaged 5.4 million viewers on Univision and 2.6 million on ESPN. The Univision broadcast was the number 1 program of the day in more than five US Cities.  The USA/England game on ABC averaged just under 13 million viewers and was the fifth most watched soccer match in ABC history.  For purposes of comparison, game 4 of the NBA finals on ABC achieved an estimated 16 million viewers on Thursday night, making it far and away the most highly viewed show of the week.  Neither number factors in “mass audiences” .

We have found the ESPN coverage to be outstanding.  Chris Fowler and Bob Ley have turned in outstanding studio host performances throughout the coverage.  The array of players and coaches manning the studios have provided solid insight.  The ESPN team did suffer an embarrassing performance during the opening match when neither broadcaster showed an accurate understanding of the properly disallowed Mexican goal in the first half.  Both broadcasters (including the usally excellent Martin Tyler) lambasted the referees for what was a correct call.

Mainstream media of the Cup has been impressive, with local outlets providing coverage of both the USA/England match and the turnout at local bars and clubs.  Major outlets such as CNNSI and USA Today have continued to provide throrough coverage including analysis of footaball write Peter King (which we have found very well done).  His excellent column is right here.  Newspapers from around the country have ramped out their coverage of the matches using a solid combination of wire reports and local coverage.

Let the Tournament Begin (and some news from Vancouver)

The World Cup is here and footiebusiness will take on a decidedly World Cup flavor for the next little while.   Before we get there, MLS gets lead billing one more time with the report that Canadian communications giant Bell will be the Whitecaps jersey sponsor when the team starts play in 2011.  The multi-year deal will see all Whitecaps teams wear the uniform,  including men’s, women’s, residency and prospects teams.

As part of the relationship, there will also be exclusive mobile video content.  According to the Digital Journal, “through an exclusive agreement with Whitecaps FC and MLS, Bell mobile clients will be able to view unique Whitecaps FC content on their mobile smartphones beginning in 2011. This will include live matches, behind-the-scenes access to Whitecaps players and coaches and other Whitecaps-specific mobile applications.”

Speaking of mobile media, ESPN mobile will have all World Cup matches available with almost all games available on many platforms.  At the same time, ESPN is making its ESPN3.com service a centerpiece of its World Cup coverage.  ESPN’s broadband sports network will carry 54 matches live and will include enhanced viewing options, milestone markers, customizable widgets and more. Because so many Americans will be at work, ESPN3.com is expecting record traffic during the World Cup with its live coverage.

Finally, kudos to ESPN for its fantastic Thursday night soccer coverage.  The three hour World Cup preview was special and saw anchors Chris Fowler, Bob Ley and Mike Tirico with prominent roles.  The production value was outstanding and The showing of classic World Cup matches has been constant and the hour long Rick Reilly special with Landon Donovan was also fantastic.  Sponsors for these programs included Corona, Penzoil, AT&T and more.