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Broadcasters Shake Up World Cup Offerings

By Sam Reid, Business Director, Invention, UK


As we watch one of the last bastions of “appointment to view” TV, the FIFA World Cup, the coverage of the event is being disrupted, but not destroyed. According to Futures Sport, the cumulative global TV audience is actually expected to increase on 2014 levels (Up to 10.8bn, +14%), but consumers and especially younger audiences, now demand non-traditional ways to enhance, compliment and on occasions replace linear TV viewership. For example, data from the BBC’s coverage of England’s opening World Cup game reflects this:

  • 18.3M peak TV coverage (69% share) – the most watched TV programme of 2018
  • 3M stream requests – the highest-ever live audience for an online BBC programme
  • 2M+ player ratings provided by users on the website

Broadcasters that sign multi-million dollar deals for exclusive rights are having to adapt their approach to reach and engage audiences with relevant content across multiple channels.

Details and Implications:

Broadcasters have made significant strides in both improving the consumer experience and maximizing reach in the social feeds of younger audiences.  FOX, which paid $425m for exclusive rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, has integrated VR and AR experiences into its coverage, whilst all 64 matches are available for streaming live.

FOX has also signed deals with both Twitter and Snapchat to take exclusive content and highlights beyond TV, although it is interesting to note there is no partnership with Facebook, which was thought to be considering a bid for rights. In fact, Facebook has seemingly taken a back seat for this year’s tournament, with almost no live match action available on the platform.

Other broadcasters have followed FOX’s social amplification approach; in China, CCTV has partnered with Youku to live stream all 64 games, along with exclusive content and highlights, in what it claims is China’s most comprehensive coverage of the event. Telemundo, the exclusive Spanish-language 2018 FIFA World Cup US broadcaster, has a partnership in place with Google, providing Spanish-language World Cup content to fans in the US.

Research carried out by Lightspeed, Mindshare’s data partner, underlines the importance of an effective non-linear approach to supplement TV coverage; almost 1 in 5 (18%) 18-30 year olds in UK, Germany and France are watching the World Cup through non-linear channels (streaming, VOD or social), a much higher percentage than those aged 30+ (10%).

However, there have been some issues as broadcasters and providers grapple with the technological demands. In Australia, Optus Sports, which paid $8m to stream all 64 games of the tournament behind a paywall for the first time, has had to announce that several matches will now be broadcast on SBS after problems surrounding its streaming service, with even the Australian Prime Minister wading in on the issue.


It is clear to see that “tentpole” live events will continue to demand an appointment to view audience, but that appointment will not be just in front of the TV, but across several interactive platforms simultaneously. Traditional broadcasters have understood that by adapting you can enhance the overall product and experience, as well as attracting new, engaged audiences.