World Cup kickoff glues millions to TV, computers, cell phones

By Dean Graber

World Cup 2010, expected to be the most-watched TV event in history, got under way Friday (June 11) in South Africa, with reporters cursing the spotty Internet access at the International Broadcast Centre.

Hundreds of broadcasters representing some 70 countries are transmitting Africa’s first World Cup to a TV audience that, according to soccer officials, will reach a cumulative TV audience of more than 26 billion. Among them are a crew of 210 for Mexico’s Televisa; a 25-person production team from Chile’s TVN; and ESPN's World Cup broadcasting team, who for the first time, sports only British accents. The BBC is covering the games in 11 languages. But new forms of digital media are vying with TV, and the actual games are only part of the World Cup experience, the Associated Press points out.

"With games airing live on cell phones and computers, the World Cup will get more online coverage than any major sporting event yet," AP's Jake Coyle explains. "Watching highlights the next day on TV or YouTube will suddenly seem a downright ancient way to keep up with the action."

In Latin America, interest in following the World Cup via mobile devices varies from country to country. “Brazilians are twice as likely (21%) to get World Cup information from their phones as Argentines (10%). But neither country comes close to Venezuela, where 27% of respondents say they’ll be following the games on a mobile device,” writes Roger Entner, a SVP of Nielsen Co. “In North America, 23% of U.S. respondents, but only 11% of Canadians, will check up on the World Cup via their mobile phone.”

The month-long competition will contribute as much as $1.5 billion to advertising spending this year, aiding a recovery of the global ad industry, Bloomberg reports. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of viewers around the world were expected to watch the World Cup on pirated signals, and broadcasters and Cup organizers can't do much about it, writes Guy Berger of South Africa's Mail & Guardian.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.