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Fever Pitch: Are You Ready for Some Football?!
June 12, 2014  | By Monique Nazareth
 

Much has been made about Brazil’s readiness for the biggest tournament in the world, the 2014 FIFA World Cup.  Well, ready or not, the games start today.   

Kicking things off, host country Brazil plays against Croatia at 3:30 p.m. ET today (Thursday) on ESPN.  Given that Brazil is expected to win the World Cup, this is one of the most important matches to watch, even if Brazil is widely expected to win.  (Note that ESPN starts its coverage of each match half an hour before kick time.)  Beginning at 2 p.m. ET, the opening ceremony will be streaming online on ESPN3. The ceremony features a welcome change:  Jennifer Lopez, who had reportedly dropped out of her scheduied opening-ceremony appearance, is back on, and is now, once again, set to perform the official FIFA cup song “We are One (Ole Ola)” with rapper Pitbull and Brazilian singer Claudia Leitte.

If you’re not much of a soccer fan but want to watch the home team, you’ll get your chance on Monday, June 16, when the U.S. plays Ghana.  That game starts at 5:30 p.m. ET.  In between those two matches are a dozen others between various international teams.

Brazil reportedly has spent $11 billion to host the World Cup.  By comparison, South Africa spent $4 billion when they hosted in 2010.  Brazil, though, has been hammered with internal problems.  Earlier this week, Sao Paulo became the scene of protests, street fires and chaos as subway workers went on strike.  Activists have taken to social media to ask people to boycott the games.  Security has become a top priority, even as Brazil’s police have come under fire for brutality.  Some 150,000 police officers and troops will be deployed to protect the matches, and the teams who are competing.  President Dilma Rousseff seems to have staked her political career on this being a successful tournament, as she faces re-election in October.  And even more is at stake, given that Brazil also is hosting the 2016 Summer Olympics.

What’s in it for the sponsors?  A huge audience.

More than 3.2 billion people watched the live coverage of the 2010 games for at least one minute and the average viewership was more than 188 million per match.  Though it doesn’t generate as much interest in the U.S., viewership has gone up substantially over the years.  ESPN reported 15.6 million in the U.S. tuned in for the final game between the Netherlands and Spain in 2010.  And this year's sponsors will be paying a lot to be part of it.  FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, will make a $2 billion profit from Brazil’s tournament alone.

The World Cup is becoming so popular in the U.S. that ESPN was outbid by FOX Sports for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup, paying as much as 4 or 5 times what ESPN paid for these last two.  But for now, ESPN is where you want to turn.

In between the 64 games that make up the World Cup, you can expect short and long documentaries, and a lot of studio banter from ESPN, as ESPN’s Senior Vice President for Programming and X Games Scott Guglielmino has promised “more than 290 original hours of surround programming.”   

The World Cup runs until July 13.  All the games will be broadcast on ESPN, ESPN-2 or ABC.  

(You can find the full schedule here: http://espnmediazone.espn.netdna-cdn.com/us/files/2014/03/ESPN-2014-FIFA-World-Cup-Brazil-Telecast-Schedule.pdf?715743)

 
 
 
 
 
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