Billed by one ESPN executive last week as a potential "watershed moment" in terms of audience usage of TV Everywhere products, ESPN and Univision coverage of the World Cup, which kicked off Thursday, will likely not break viewership records on mobile devices in the U.S.
However, according to numerous reports, the finite amount of Cup viewership in the United States will indeed be spread across devices, and advertising support for digital viewing is particularly strong.
As Variety reported, viewing of the 2014 World Cup on notebook computers, tablets and smart phones will easily surpass the 2010 event, during which ESPN3.com delivered 15.7 million viewing hours of coverage and Univision gave out 10 million hours of video footage on UnivisionFutbol.com.
Speaking on an industry panel last week, Damon Phillips, VP of Watch ESPN, predicted the World Cup would be a pivotal event for TV Everywhere distribution, with many U.S. sports fans stuck at work during the weekday morning and afternoon matches and only able to watch them on IP-based devices.
But as Variety also notes, this year's 64-match tournament isn't expected to break any domestic records for Internet and mobile-video consumption, with only 7 percent of Americans expecting to follow the World Cup closely, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll. Only 10 percent of those who identify themselves as dedicated U.S. soccer fans say they'll watch the tournament only on mobile devices, according to another survey, conducted by TV app maker Peel.
As Adweek reports, however, advertiser support for ESPN and Univision--which hold the exclusive World Cup broadcast rights in the U.S.--has been strong on the digital side.
AT&T and Adidas have purchased digital sponsorships for ESPN's online and mobile coverage, while Univision has signed Anheuser Busch, Coca-Cola and T-Mobile as digital Cup clients.
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