'More than 3.2bil viewers': World Cup 2014 aims for TV victory

  • Lifestyle
  • Thursday, 12 Jun 2014

FIFA is expecting World Cup 2014 to be the 'most watched TV event ever' — estimating that global viewers will surpass the estimated 3.2 billion pairs of eyes that watched the tournament in 2010.

The ground is all set for World Cup 2014 to glue more eyes to the screen than any other event in TV history. Adding to the excitement, FIFA has also announced that, for the first time in the broadcasting history of the quadrennial football tournament, some matches — including the final in Rio de Janeiro on July 13 — will be broadcast in ultra high definition.

“We have some reasons to say the audience will increase. We worked very hard on the match schedule and the times we have now, we think will be very good for the football fan,” FIFA TV director Niclas Ericson said by telephone from Rio.

Where else but Brazil? Practically the spiritual homeland of football, Brazil is not only tipped to win its sixth World Cup title but FIFA thinks the host country can generate the most intense global TV viewing numbers, besting the 3.2 billion viewers that watched the South Africa World Cup in 2010. 

“We think we have very good kick off times for Africa, the Middle East and Europe and will continue to grow the audience there. And as the World Cup is in the Americas, we’ll have even better figures from there than ever before,” he added. “Asia has grown very fast in term of viewers and I believe that even on paper before the event it looks extremely good to break the records we have.”

While Ericson would not speculate on numbers, saying FIFA still struggled to audit figures in certain parts of the world, he stated that for the first time FIFA had a rights contract in place with every country or territory and the interest was enormous. “We know that an opening match featuring Brazil is going to be record-breaking across the world because it is Brazil,” he added.

'3.2 billion viewers'

FIFA’s research on viewing numbers — which took a year for the organisation to produce after the 2010 World Cup in South Africa — states that 909.6 million television viewers tuned in to at least one minute of the 2010 final at home, with the official rating of an estimated 188.4 million viewers for each match.

South Africa World Cup 2010 easily claimed that year’s most watched TV event, tallying at 619.7 million viewers watching at least 20 consecutive minutes of Spain’s 1-0 extra-time win over the Netherlands in Johannesburg.

Overall, it’s been estimated that more than 3.2 billion people watched live coverage of the 2010 tournament for a minimum of one minute. The figures claimed an average increase of between 3% to 8% from the 2006 finals in Germany. By comparison, an estimated global audience of 900 million viewers watched the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, while it's been estimated that over 2 billion viewers watched the live broadcast of Princess Diana's funeral — one of the most watched TV events ever.

In terms of sheer numbers, however, the event to beat is the 2008 Summer Olympics — still the record holder for the ‘world’s most watched multi-day broadcast’. According to Nielsen Media Research, the Beijing games drew up to 4.7 billion individual viewers — that’s 70% of the world’s population – watching at least some part of its TV coverage. 

That’s 1.5 billion more than the numbers FIFA got for South Africa 2010. But, as the saying goes, records are meant to broken and FIFA is hoping that Brazil 2014 will be the one to break it. 

Going ultra

Football fans would be wise to get their eyes well-rested in time for World Cup 2014 as broadcasts from Brazil will feature 34 cameras per match, with around 3,000 staff from 48 different countries toiling away to satisfy global TV cravings for the month-long tournament.

“We want to be in the forefront of how to produce and present football. We also have demands from our clients that we have to deliver a very good product,” said Ericson. “Our media rights are precious for both the client and ourselves because it is the largest revenue source for us and an important media right for broadcasters who are profiling themselves by screening the World Cup.”

Are you watching closely? A view of the Master Control Room during a media tour at the opening ceremony of the International Brodcasting Centre (IBC) for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, in Rio de Janeiro. — Reuters

FIFA said in March that income from television rights and marketing deals ahead of the World Cup had helped drive up its revenues to US$1.386bil (RM4.5bil). Such is the marketing cache of the World Cup that not even street protests in Brazil and ongoing corruption allegations surrounding the 2022 World Cup in Qatar have deterred sponsors eager to be associated with the event.

That long list of sponsors includes TV stations from around the world that seem only too keen on pulling out all the stops in their efforts to broadcast the matches. Three matches in Brazil will be shot and broadcast in 4K and nine in 8K resolution as part of tests by broadcasters, notably Japan’s NHK. 

The cinema industry standard, also known as ultra high definition, offers a greatly enhanced picture and is expected to become a television standard by 2017. No doubt sponsors are hoping to cash in on the potential market for TV sets that can handle the hi-res transmission, as can be seen in Sony's ad below.

“We can use the World Cup to drive advances in TV technology because with a large platform of broadcasters, anything we want to try, we immediately have reasonable economics around it,” Ericson explained.

“We did 3D in South Africa and quickly had a number of broadcasters around the world working with us and participating in the project,” he said. “For this World Cup we are working with 4K and 8K, and immediately we have broadcasters who say they want to be part of it.”

Broadcasters will be offered the chance to deliver expanded content services, seeking to satisfy a growing demand from viewers for a ‘second screen’ experience. Apps and web players can be customised by broadcasters and offered to their viewers, who increasingly watch live broadcasts of the games on smartphones or tablets.

“We produce the matches with a lot of cameras, we produce several different feeds and the match footage is a rich service. But we also produce a lot of content outside of the game, which makes for a rich multi-media service offering,” said Ericson. – Reuters

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