In 2005, ABC/ESPN paid just $100 million for the English-language rights to the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups (as well as 2007 and 2011 Women’s World Cups). That fee was dwarfed in 2011 when FOX paid $425 million to win the rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments.
Based on what ABC/ESPN got out of the last two World Cups, I would say it’s money well spent.
While ESPN says goodbye to its last World Cup for a minimum of 12 years, they have to be congratulated for the hard work and benchmarks they’ve achieved.
Here are some of our highs and lows of ESPN’s World Cup 2014 broadcast:
1. Last Call
ESPN’s groundbreaking Last Call was a breath of fresh air. The nightly show was a relaxing and informative discussion show that often featured plenty of friendly and interesting debates with the pundits gathered around the table.
The relaxed manner of the show was jovial at times, and broke away from the typical stuffy studio shows that we expect to see on television.
2. Roberto Martinez
The fact that ESPN continues to be able to secure the talent of Roberto Martinez with each major tournament is a huge coup for the American broadcaster.
Martinez is a perfectionist in everything he does. He’s an excellent communicator. He almost always adds observations and pieces of wisdom that are enlightening. And his calmness and effervescent personality in front of the TV camera is a joy to watch.
3. Tactics board
Instead of the jumbo-sized board that FOX Sports uses for its Champions League coverage, ESPN’s flat-screen tactics board was used when needed and was often a high point of the analysis that the ESPN talent provided.
Taylor Twellman, Alexi Lalas and Roberto Martinez, in particular, were highlights.
4. The partnership of Jon Champion and Stewart Robson
Before this World Cup, we surprisingly didn’t have the opportunity to listen to Jon Champion and Stewart Robson in the same commentary booth that often for Premier League matches. However, the partnership of Champion and Robson at the FIFA World Cup was one of the high points.
Although a little too scripted at times, Jon Champion was superb overall. His ability to “call it as he sees it” combined with Robson’s forthrightness was refreshing to hear. There was no pussyfooting in their commentaries. It was straight to the point, time after time again.
Derek Rae and Daniel Mann were two other commentary highlights. Both were model professionals.