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ESPN Fired Up for 64 Futbol Matches

6/07/2010 6:00 AM Eastern

ESPN vice president of programming
and acquisitions Scott
Guglielmino is more than ready
for some futbol — from South
Africa.

Four days from now, the 2010
FIFA World Cup will kick off with
the host nation meeting Mexico
in the opener. With some 300 people
on the ground, ESPN, ESPN2,
ABC and their various arms will
televise all of the 64 matches from
the 32-team tournament in high definition. The sports programmer’s
broadband, mobile, online
and Spanish-language outlets
and other vehicles will also be
similarly engaged with
the monthlong tournament,
which concludes
with the final, to air on
ABC July 11.

Then, there’s the kickoff
of new network ESPN
3D, which will feature 25
matches in the format.

Match action aside, there’s
also some 90 hours of related
programming, including a giant
lead-in to the action on ESPN2,
24-Hour Countdown to Kickoff .

“We’re ready to start. It’s the
world’s biggest sport and its most
important event,” Guglielmino
said in an interview early last
week. “It’s being played in Africa
for the first time and in a very
unique environment. We can’t
wait.”

Guglielmino said ESPN’s expansive
push in promoting and
televising FIFA’s famed tournament
stems from the programmer
being “bullish on the sport.”
The commitment also is reflective
of the lead role it took to gain the
rights for FIFA events from 2007-
14 for some $100 million.
Previously, ESPN’s bids
came in conjunction
with broadcast sibling
ABC, while it secured
the rights to the 2006
World Cup from Germany
through Soccer
United Marketing, Major League
Soccer’s marketing arm.

Matches from South Africa will
kick off at 7:30 a.m., 10 a.m. and
2:30 p.m. (ET) during the group
stage, with all second-round
games and beyond airing in the
latter two windows. Not exactly
primetime, which any number of
the matches from the 2014 World
Cup in Brazil could fall into, depending
on scheduling.

Guglielmino prefers to take
a sanguine view of the six-hour
time differential from the East
Coast in the States to the upcoming
competition from South Africa.

“Those dayparts don’t usually
have the highest HUT [households
using television] levels,” he
said. “We will have live worldclass
programming that will bring
us a bigger, broader audience.”

Guglielmino and other executives
are not only looking at
ratings, but the tournament’s
cumulative reach: ESPN will
gauge multiplatform usage and
advertiser activity through the
launch of research initiative,
ESPN XP.

“Our attention is not just centered
on TV, where we have the live
matches and the [cut-downs of the
games from the group stages into
two and two-and-half windows]
on ESPN Classic. There also are
so many more matches and other
content available on ESPN3.com
and on mobile devices than there
were from the 2006 World Cup,” he
said. “We have so many more ways
to reach people going to work or
at their jobs. It’s going to be very
interesting to see how we touch
them all.”

ESPN and the rest of the soccer
community also have keen interest
on the action taking place on
Dec. 2. That’s when FIFA will announce
the host nations for the
2018 and 2022 World Cups. ESPN
executive vice president of content
John Skipper and Univision
CEO Joe Uva are both members of
the U.S. bid committee.

“It was a great opportunity
when the U.S. hosted the World
Cup in 1994,” said Guglielmino.
“And it would be a great opportunity
for the continued growth
of domestic soccer and the World
Cup if the tournament were held
here in either 2018 or 2022.”

Although the dates for media
rights bidding for those tourneys
have yet to be established, rest
assured ESPN will have those
circled when the time comes, according
to Guglielmino.

 

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