2010 World Cup: ESPN Hasn’t Complained About Vuvuzelas, But Tries To Mute Them

Categories: 2010 FIFA World Cup TV Ratings,Network TV Press Releases,TV Sports Ratings & News

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June 16th, 2010

via press release: (vuvuzela question highlighted below)

ESPN 2010 FIFA World Cup Conference Call with Executive Vice President John Skipper

On Monday, June 14, ESPN conducted a media conference call with Executive Vice President John Skipper to discuss the opening weekend of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and ESPN’s ongoing coverage of the tournament (June 11 – July 11). Skipper is currently in South Africa working and attending regular matches as a fan. Select comments:

On ESPN’s efforts to promote the World Cup…
“We’re continuing to pursue a strategy that we began in 2006 and that is through our marketing campaign – the ‘One Game Changes Everything.’ We’ve had the strategy of trying to get America to understand that this is a worldwide event. It’s important and something you’ve got to get to…. We’re using the same slogan and same campaign. What we’ve done to buttress that is to provide all the surround programming – preview shows and nightly highlight shows. That gives people the sense that it’s a big event. That is to draw in the mass of American sports fans. We’ve also tried hard to satisfy the avid fan through the collection of talent we’ve assembled, through not trying to explain offsides all the time, and through being here on the ground.”

On whether the time zone in South Africa poses a particular challenge to ESPN…
“You mentioned the time zone which is not friendly, but we’re seeing very, very strong numbers – and not just the game with America – in all of the windows…spectacular numbers on ESPN3.com…I think you’re seeing we’re providing options for people wherever they are regardless of the time zone. We, among all sports broadcasters, spend less time worrying about the time zones. When live events happen, we’re going to present them to fans, give them a lot of options to watch them and put them on when they’re happening.”

On fans tuning into online broadband coverage, including ESPN3.com…
“We think that’s great. I think to the extent that fans have more options to tune in and more people get excited about it, that’s a good thing. For us on ESPN3.com, we have very good distribution and are in over 50 million broadband homes. If you get it at home, you get it at work…The average time spent was 42 minutes, so that means that people were watching a lot of the game. I don’t know what their work circumstances are, but I’m sure it’s helped them with their productivity. It makes them a happier employee and hopefully it will help the American economy I am sure.”

On the importance of the U.S. team having success in the tournament…
“It’s a wonderful plus for us for the U.S. team to keep moving on, but we maintained last time and we maintain this time, that there will be very significant growth whether or not the U.S. team advances…In those games that the American team is in, we’re going to do great numbers because I think there is great interest, but I think people will continue to watch and the tournament will be up dramatically whether they stay in or not.”

On why more people are tuning in to watch the 2010 FIFA World Cup…
“I do believe inevitably, kids played for years and those demos are coming into affect. The diversification of our country and culture means there are more people to watch. I think people watched last time, and they’re coming back and telling their friends…The communal aspect this time is very, very high…I think there is a viral effect going on right now and people are finding out that this is a very fun event.”

On ESPN’s experienced World Cup commentator team…
“We have hired people who are experts and have a lot of experience in calling the world’s greatest soccer and asked them to do their thing. Surprisingly, we have not tried to micro-manage it. We’ve just said, ‘call the game the way you call it.’…We’re assuming that the fans watching know the game. That doesn’t mean they know the players on the Cameroon team or the history of how that team has done in the World Cup, so we’re still asking them to give context to the teams that are here, some World Cup history, but in terms of calling the game itself, call the game the way you usually call it…So far that’s worked very well.”

On ESPN production efforts in response to vuvuzelas…
“We have not lobbied FIFA and do not want to be perceived of having an issue with the vuvuzelas. It’s part of the culture here. We accept it and applaud it. Now we always work on the audio mix to provide the best experience we can to our fans. When we show a NASCAR race, we take the motors and cut them way down because if that’s all you could hear, that’s not a great experience. We are doing the same thing here. We are mixing the audio so that the hum of the vuvuzelas is depressed and modulated somewhat. We have specifically said that we still want to hear that because that is part of the experience and part of the background.”

On whether ESPN studio coverage should delve into political, cultural and economic stories about the countries who have teams competing in the World Cup…
“Outside of South Africa and Africa, if it’s not germane to the game, we probably don’t consider it our domain…We have the charge that we do want to expose South African culture. We feel that the host of the tournament is in a different situation…We will celebrate, investigate, examine and expose…Clearly we will not shy away from the news, but we will not cover the whole world here.”

On the long-term impact the World Cup will have on ESPN’s coverage of soccer…
“We have a pretty significant commitment to the sport. I don’t think we would have been deterred if we were disappointed. Now, the fact that we are thrilled will embolden us to think about what other soccer we might present and will embolden us to think we might make real progress with the soccer we’re already committed to…It’s going to take a few more years, but we’re going to present soccer as a year-round domestic and international sport on our air and across all of our platforms. What’s going on here at the World Cup will give us some confirmation that we’re on the right track.”

 
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