The Biggest Stream: No Doubt, It Will Be World Cup

The World Cup starts next Thursday and doesn’t end up until July 13, and as you will begin hearing soon, if you haven’t already, there’s going to be a honking big worldwide audience, surely the biggest ever, watching on TV and online.

That online piece could be well, it will be—enormous.

In 2010, ESPN3 had 6.9 million unique viewers who watched 14.7 million hours. Univision’s online viewers watched 10 million hours.

And that was four years ago, before online viewing became really common and mobile devices became ubiquitous, and when many of the matches happened early in the day for most U.S. viewers. Rio de Janeiro, site of this year’s games, is just one hour ahead of the Eastern time zone. Lots of the 64 matches will happen when you can see them.

The IAB recently released its own look-ahead to the games and predicted that, gleaned from the 11 nations where it asked fans, 48% plan to use their phones to follow the games. Only TV, with 63%, will get more.

ESPN.com, which is streaming all of them, is expecting a huge audience and its Web site has a fairly breathless countdown to the first game, less than six days away.  BBC.com, which is also streaming it across the ocean, forecasts 150 million page views and 20 million unique views    

Steve Rotter, vice president of digital marketing solutions for Brightcove, notes that in 2010, 3.2 billion viewers—that’s 46.4% of the world’s population—watched at least a minute of the World Cup. The governing FIFA body says the average audience for each match was 188.4 million worldwide.

“The reality is that because events like the World Cup or the Olympics are available to an international audience for streaming online, video is more important to marketers and retailers than it ever,” Rotter wrote in an email. 

So look out for 2014. Worldwide, as Rotter suggests and Google notes in a Google Think piece online, soccer has more interest on Google Search than the Super Bowl, the Olympics, and the Tour de France combined. “If you’re looking to reach an audience of sports fans—from the crazed to the casual—the opportunity doesn’t get any bigger,” the Google post asserts. 

This nation’s Hispanics are passionate soccer fans and the essay also notes, “U.S. Hispanics are digital trendsetters, adopting smartphones faster than any other demographic, according to Nielsen. It follows that digital should be a core part of any strategy to reach and engage these fans.”

There are many ways to stream, but this year millions and millions more will be doing it than four years ago. 

Advertisers online and otherwise, are in the game. Unruly Media is busily charting how both World Cup advertising sponsors, and other advertisers that are just tagging along, are faring among fans in terms of ad-sharing. It is urging the curious to follow its Braziliant Brands Tracker.

As of today, a Shakira-starring video for Activia, a YouTube ad that celebrates gay athletes and a McDonald’s spot top the list. Of those three ,only the Mickey D’s spot, is a more or less conventional sell-a-product kind of commercial

When Unruly started watching World Cup-connected ads, and charting their virality, it seemed that being an official World Cup sponsor didn’t matter much. 

Nike, not a sponsor, was getting more play with its soccer spot than Adidas, an official sponsor, was. That’s changed a lot, but clearly, Unruly and other advertisers are paying attention. It was Unruly, don’t forget, that reported sharing of Super Bowl commercials crashed this year; that might have been the kind of news that started sending some marketers looking for the next commercial frontier.

And that, apparently, is still "football"—but as that sport is known in almost every other country in the world.

pj@mediapost.com   

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