The 2014 FIFA World Cup is set to be the most accessible in the tournament’s history, as the combined reach of broadcast TV and streaming options are poised to make the matches available on up to 5.9 billion screens worldwide, according to research firm Ovum.
Alternative access on PCs, tablets and smartphones account for 57% of those screens, though most fans are keen to watch on the biggest screens in the highest resolution possible.
Ovum stresses the importance of traditional broadcasting – via terrestrial, cable, satellite, or IPTV – for attracting the largest audiences and generating the most value for World Cup rights holders.
“Devices capable of streaming live and on-demand video – of which there are now 4.7 billion – are providing additional viewing opportunities outside the appointment viewing taking place in people’s living rooms,” said Ted Hall, senior analyst at Ovum, in a statement. “With the likes of tablets providing the convenience and flexibility to consume content whenever and wherever, fans are able to watch more of the tournament than ever before.”
The reliability of online streams compared with traditional broadcasts remains a concern, however. “For broadcasters and operators providing multi-platform World Cup services, supplying demand with minimal technical hiccups should be of paramount concern,” said Hall. “Having set consumer expectations for TV Everywhere, providers must now deliver on the promise of their offerings, as failure to do so can result in bad press and, more importantly, frustrated fans. While viewing live events online is improving, there is some way to go before it can compare with the reliability traditional TV distribution offers for the largest audiences.”
Significant innovation of the viewing experience for this World Cup is somewhat lacking, in Ovum’s view. The tournament will not, for instance, provide the launch pad for the 4K Ultra HD format – though FIFA and technology partner Sony are capturing three matches in 4K, very few people see them in this resolution, with screenings limited to public venues in Rio de Janeiro.
“4K technology is far from ready for home viewing, with holes in the transmission part of the ecosystem meaning that it will be some time before audiences of any significant scale will be watching UHDTV content in their living rooms,” Hall said.
This story also appears on IBC’s Content Everywhere.