SBD/Issue 189/Sports Media

ESPN Gets Mostly High Marks For Early World Cup Coverage

Bob Ley Among ESPN's On-Air World Cup
Personalities Getting Positive Reviews Thus Far

No one "can fault ESPN's effort preparing for" the FIFA World Cup, but the "only lingering question is where are the Americans?" according to Tyler Duffy of THE BIG LEAD. ESPN has "tried to put on the best show possible, but the foreign presence does send a message." The coverage in general "has been quite good," though there are a "few minor points." ESPN is "weakened by not having an American-based soccer site in sync with their home page." The network also does not have a reporter like Buster Olney or Adam Schefter for soccer "to jump in and add context with the latest scuttlebutt." There also are "too many dudes." Duffy: "ESPN, could you have brought one female studio host?" Meanwhile, THE BIG LEAD's Jason McIntyre reviewed ESPN's personalities, writing ESPN analyst Alexi Lalas can be a "divisive figure," but that he has earned a "B+" grade for his work so far. McIntyre: "We don't always agree with what he has to say, but so far, we've really liked his commentary." ESPN play-by-play announcers Martin Tyler and Ian Darke "are brilliant." They are "erudite, quick-witted, and come off as smarter than the majority of play-by-play announcers we hear in MLB/NBA/NFL." Studio analysts Ruud Gullit, Roberto Martinez, Steve McManaman and Jurgen Klinsmann are the "only real weakness in the coverage." Gullit "seems to only speak in cliches," and "everything he says is painfully obvious." McManaman "has been the best," and his "rant after the U.S. tied England should be on YouTube." But Duffy wrote Klinsmann and Martinez "have been charming and spectacular." McManaman and Gullit are "both experienced on television," and the "cliches with Ruud is mostly an English as a second language issue" (, 6/14).

BEST WORK EVER?'s Dan Levy wrote if you compare ESPN's World Cup coverage "to other ESPN productions, it's not even close," as the '10 World Cup is "shaping up to be, thus far, the best event ESPN has ever produced." Meanwhile, Tyler and analyst John Harkes "worked very well together" during Saturday's U.S.-England game. The game for Harkes was the "best match he's ever called," and "credit has to go to Tyler for a lot of that." Fellow play-by-play announcers Adrian Healey, Derek Rae and Darke have been "stellar as well." ESPN's analysts "haven't been as spectacular, but they've been solid nonetheless." It's not that their work "hasn't been good ... it's that they're rather anonymous to the average American viewer." Meanwhile, ESPN "has shined" in the studio. Bob Ley, Mike Tirico and Chris Fowler are hosting studio coverage, which has been "absolutely fantastic." The coverage is "pure and straightforward, bordering on reverential to the sport of soccer." Fowler "has been very good at directing traffic -- and keeping up with the soccer talk -- thus far," as has Tirico (, 6/14).

SOLID START NORTH OF THE BORDER: YAHOO SPORTS' Richard Whittall wrote it is "safe to say the CBC is doing a good job presenting" the World Cup. The network "has already passed the footie test with flying colors ... with every game of the group stage broadcast live, plus two group stage evening replays on the main network and all three games replayed on CBC Bold." Game analysis "can be a bit snoozy at times, although Canada should be thankful they've been spared game analysis from the likes of ex-players Alan Shearer (BBC) or Steve McManaman (ESPN)." But "one major problem" with the coverage is the net's "use of the international English commentary feed." The feed's reliance on a "lone man in the booth often allows the commentator to go off on bizarre tangents during games, or in the case of USA vs. England announcer John Helm, to loudly sniff into the microphone after every single sentence" (, 6/14).

FOR MORE FROM SOUTH AFRICA: For more World Cup coverage, please see other stories in today’s issue on Hyundai pulling an ad amid criticism from Catholic groups, Dutch female fans being ejected for an ambush marketing effort, South Africa team merchandise selling quickly, viewership being up through three days on ESPN and Univision, AT&T Park drawing more than 20,000 fans for a public viewing of Saturday’s game, police taking over security at two venues, FIFA citing tradition in not banning vuvuzelas and late-night talk show hosts discussing soccer.

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