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World Cup 2006: New Media Set to Score Big
The technologies behind online and mobile delivery of World Cup games and highlights are only part of the story. Sweden’s Infront Sports & Media was responsible for all video licensing, ensuring standardization of coverage across the globe.
Tues., June 6, by Christine Perey
If forecasters are correct, the 2006 FIFA World Cup—running from June 9 to July 9—will have the biggest remote viewing audience of any sports event in history. Television coverage alone is expected to reach more than 215 countries with a projected cumulative viewing audience of 32.5 billion people. That’s a lot of eyeballs.

No one really knows how many more millions of fans will be watching on their computer screens and mobile devices, but the potential is unprecedented and it seems all the terrestrial and mobile networks are competing for part of the action.

Worldwide appeal
No other team sport approaches soccer’s popularity worldwide. More than 250 million men and women play the game, most for fun but some for profit. The FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) consists of more than 200 national associations; that’s more members than in the United Nations, according to FIFA’s website.

By extension, such a large audience makes soccer a big business. Major brands, like Coca-Cola, Budweiser, MasterCard, and Gillette, are vying for attention along with sports-specific brands like Adidas and Nike. The richest sports club in the world is the British Manchester United, with an estimated worth of $1-2 billion. Much of the new money in the industry comes from the lucrative long-term television contracts for regional and now global events. And now there are new sources of revenue from the new media sector. Infront Sports & Media, the Swiss-based global manager of all broadcast rights for the current 2006 FIFA World Cup, estimates that since beginning the partnership, it has helped to increase the return of the games to FIFA by more than 1,000%. “The worldwide media rights for the FIFA World Cup are the most valuable sports property in the world today,” says Infront media spokesperson Jörg Polzer.

Play by Play
One of the most attractive aspects of the 2006 World Cup, from an audience perspective, is the immediacy of the networks which tie together the action in Germany and the audiences anywhere and everywhere. The pre-game content is focused on the players who on any given day are injured or for some reason miss a practice. Every aspect of every team appears to be under a magnifying glass then posted to a portal, or sent to mobile handsets by SMS or with a photo in an MMS, if the subscriber prefers. Commentators are popping up like flies.

Once the games begin, the play-by-play monitoring--on broadcast television, via the web such as with the FIFA portal’s “MatchCast,” and via SMS messages to mobile phones--will keep everyone on their toes. In some countries streaming video highlights will be compiled and accessible via portals within an hour of each game’s end. For web-based audiences, two minutes of the best action will be available on the FIFAworldcup.com website, hosted by Yahoo!. These highlights will include all the goals, and the streaming files are exclusive to FIFAworldcup.com.

Community Spirit and Interactivity
Each team has its loyal fans. Every local, regional, national, and international news agency began talking about the World Cup weeks ago and will continue with their exclusive reporters in Germany filing stories over the next month. Then, web developers have a variety of interactive features to offer attentive fans. By way of the FIFA website, for example, clips showing all the goals scored during the tournament will be posted to the web site and site visitors can watch to choose their favorite. Registered visitors can vote and choose the Goal of the Tournament.

8Bit Games has launched Plan Your World Cup, a site for mobile phone owners, which the company claims “puts the whole World Cup in the palm of your hand.” Catchy slogan, but it’s not quite reality. All you get is an application which, once on your handset will rack up the data traffic faster than even a video clip, although the company will not charge the handset user a subscription fee. Instead of users having to go to an operator’s portal to download only the content you want or need, the application uses the 2G or 3G data channel to directly push the latest news, results, odd facts, and occasional images to the device. Of course, there are games, contests and the potential to win big prizes, like team shirts! The cost of the special mobile handset wall paper (£4.50 to download) can be charged directly to your bill, but users won’t know the true cost until all is said and done since the amount of data to be sent depends on the content provider, not the subscriber. At the end of the day, the operator probably shares some of the revenues with the provider of the application which has generated all the traffic.
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