SBD/Issue 148/Sports Media

Cup Runneth Over: ESPN Expects World Cup Ratings To Jump 25-50%


ESPN Exec VP/Content John Skipper said he would be surprised if World Cup ratings did not grow by at least 25-50% over '06. "I think it will be up significantly, double digits. I don't think it will go up 100% again. Will I be disappointed if it's not up 25 or 50%? Yes. I think it will be up somewhere in that range." Skipper made his remarks after a presentation that detailed how much time and effort the network has put into its World Cup preparations. "The World Cup is going to dominate the discussion of sports fans in this country in a way that it has not done previously," Skipper said. He said ESPN is not using the World Cup as a trial run to show the IOC that ESPN can handle big events. "All you see here is a result of our commitment to this event," he said. "If it can show what we can do on an international level, (that's great)." ESPN execs would not put a dollar figure on how much it has spent on its World Cup preparation. But it is more than the network has spent on any other event. ESPN will roll out a major marketing and advertising push across a multitude of platforms in the coming months with national TV, digital and print campaigns on and off ESPN platforms. It also purchased outdoor advertising on billboards in N.Y., Chicago, L.A., Philadelphia and S.F. This summer the network will have three mobile lunch trucks that will serve international food and feature 55-inch televisions that broadcast games live around the U.S. ESPN Senior Dir of Marketing Seth Ader said, "It's the most comprehensive marketing plan behind a single event in company history. It's just massive."

AFRICAN DREAM: Another major cost will be related to production. ESPN Senior VP/Exec Producer of Remote Production Jed Drake has visited South Africa six times for 10 days a trip. "I've gotten to know and learn and understand the people," he said. ESPN sent three crews to the country last month. Anchor Bob Ley, for example, has visited twice to report on World Cup-related stories. ESPN plans to have 300 people on the ground in South Africa during the event, 200 of whom will be flown from the U.S and Europe. ESPN has built a 2,000-square-foot set that will be 25-feet in the air with a 25-foot window.

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