Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Massive World Cup ratings and lessons for Fox

The 2014 World Cup featured brilliant play on the pitch, culminating in Germany's 1-0 extra time victory over Lionel Messi and Argentina in the final. The Germany-Argentina final also drew a massive viewing crowd on television, garnering 26.5 million viewers between ABC and Univision, the World Cup's Spanish-language broadcaster. For comparison, the Heat-Spurs NBA finals averaged 15.5 million viewers.

What do the ratings mean for the World Cup moving forward?

Perhaps aiding television ratings throughout the tournament was the United States' success and ability to advance into the knockout round. Viewers were interested to see what their country had to offer, despite head coach Jurgen Klinnsman's bleak initial outlook.

However, larger aides to the ratings were ESPN's obvious dedication to the tournament (and sport of soccer) and even the sheer simplicity of the entire tournament.

In their final year after 20 years hosting the World Cup, ESPN broke out all of the stops, putting on a beautiful cross-platform display. Steve Lepore of Awful Announcing went in-depth on ESPN's television coverage, and it's much more informed and developed than anything I could produce.

Fox has taken over the World Cup rights, their first event being the 2015 women's World Cup. The deal was sealed when Fox won with a $425 million bid for rights from 2015 through 2022 (two men's Cups). ESPN had held the rights of the 2010 and 2014 Cups for about $100 million.

While he goes through what ESPN experimented with in its country-centric coverage, Lepore highlights a point that Fox hopefully took note of long ago: hire talent.

Lepore writes:
Why did the coverage turn into such a success when the network turned away from the typical American voices, trading them in instead for a cadre of usually British commentators, with some Americans and former players from various countries mixed in? 
That’s because ESPN started to choose the people who could best elaborate as to what made this tournament so beloved.

But the World Cup is also so darned simple, which adds to the fervor. It's the best against the best, for one month, playing one sport. If your country gets eliminated, you sift through your family tree and find another country of family ties. Ok, the last part is optional, but it's been done.

People watch because even if they do not understand the rules of the game, they understand the end goal of the whole event. A little bit why we are all so enamored by sports like curling come Winter Olympics time.

ESPN didn't just cover it on TV, putting together a much-applauded website featuring some of their top talent like Chris Jones, Jeremy Schaap, Wright Thompson and Pablo Torre. They put their head down and covered the event, allowing the game to take its rightful place in America's sporting landscape.

Many media members have had their suggestions for Fox, the network that has the huge task of following up ESPN. Hire Ian Darke. Borrow Bob Ley. Hire Jon Champion. Better coverage of social issues.

The message to Fox should have been received loud and clear long before they even bid for the rights. Despite ESPN's well-earned praise this year, things were not always so nice. There were times where ESPN (unsuccessfully) pushed their guys for the sake of pushing their guys. They put themselves ahead of the events.

Here's a list of broadcasters over the years. Notice the jump from 2006 to 2010, who was there and who was not.

Hopefully Fox doesn't get too caught up in Gus Johnson Mania and make the same mistake.

The 2014 World Cup earned massive ratings on ESPN. But ESPN's run is over. Now it's Fox's turn. Let's hope they know what they're doing.


Quick aside...

While competition was fantastic throughout, which helped ratings blossom, there was certainly no shortage of Hot Sports Takes. None are hotter than Hot Soccer Takes either.


Columnists, journalists, writers and, um, Fox News people took to their respective outlets to declare whether or not the sport of soccer had made it in the United States. They cited everything from television ratings to soccer rules prohibiting the use of hands. All while missing the point of the whole event.

Just cover it, like you would any other sporting event.

No other sport goes through the kind of consistently irresponsible speculative coverage despite games being played like soccer does. It's a sport, just cover it. If people like it, they'll watch and attend and play.


Kevin Rossi is a senior Drexel Sport Management major with minors in Communications and Business Administration. Since joining the SMTSU, Kevin has worked his way up the ladder to President. Currently, Kevin is serving as the Sports Information Assistant for Drexel Athletics and  intern at Comcast SportsNet in web production. Kevin has writing experience with, The Triangle, Temple University, and various outlets in a freelance capacity. Follow Kevin on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

Connect with Kevin Rossi on LinkedIn.

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