Four years ago, which seems like a lifetime in Internet years, the 2006 World Cup experience was very different than it is today. There were only a handful of soccer podcasts worldwide. Soccer blogs were a relatively new thing. And the TV coverage was decent. All games were televised but national anthems were skipped and the analysis and commentary on ESPN was, at times, comical.
In 2010, we’ve come a long way. But if 2010 has been so incredible in terms of the quality and quantity of coverage – and so successful when you consider that 34% of all Americans have watched some of the World Cup telecasts this summer – what will the 2014 experience be like?
World Cup 2010 has already crashed Twitter several times. I believe one of the biggest benefactors of the World Cup Twitter phenomenon will be the Premier League. When the new season starts up in mid-August, they’re will be a significant increase in the number of soccer fans conversing about the league on Twitter.
But in 2014, Twitter may not exist. Same with Facebook. Both of those social networking tools may be old hat by then such is the way MySpace is now. Or they may be bought and morphed into something new. There’s no doubt that social media will be an important facet of the 2014 World Cup – it has been a game changer for the 2010 one – but social media technology changes so rapidly that it’s almost impossible to predict how it’ll be so different in 2014.
One thing is for sure. I don’t see the TV coverage changing much. ESPN has mastered how a World Cup needs to be presented. And I don’t see them messing too much with the proven formula. The next World Cup will be in Brazil so hopefully some of the kick-off times will be more US-friendly, but knowing FIFA’s penchant for kowtowing to Europe by scheduling games that tend to be primetime there, don’t expect the kick-off times to be as reasonable as they should be.
A side note: England’s biggest viewing audience for a 2010 World Cup game, thus far, has been the 18.84 million who watched the 0-0 draw against Algeria (poor, unfortunate souls). In the United States, probably for the first time ever, the TV viewing audience for a World Cup game was bigger than in England. A record 19.4 million watched Ghana versus the US. That is a massive milestone in the history of the sport in this country.
One big difference with the TV experience of the 2014 World Cup will be the way we’ll consume it. By then, I predict more people will be watching the tournament online than on television. Online could be considered on mobile phones, on iPad like devices (but smaller, thinner and more powerful than the first generation Apple iPad) and on the web, where you’ll not only see the games as you do now, but you’ll also be able to choose different camera angles and customize your viewing experience to your taste.
Some of you may predict that the TV experience of the 2014 World Cup will be different because 3D technology will be commonplace and much more advanced by then. I still think it’s a fad. I don’t see how or why soccer fans would want to wear glasses – which would be very uncomfortable after two hours of wearing them – to watch a game that looks so good regularly.
So the 2014 World Cup will be a similar experience in many ways to 2010. I’m sure we’ll be watching many of the games on mobile phones. The TV ratings will be through the roof and will surpass all American sports except for NFL. That is, if the United States men’s national team can be significant improvements between now and then. Internet usage will be bigger than TV. World Cup advertising will be everywhere and will completely inundate us.
The whole world will be watching, including us.