The 2014 World Cup kickoff is mere hours away, and official U.S. networks ESPN and Univision are ready to welcome fans that will be following the games on digital platforms.
"We know it's the greatest sporting event on earth. There's going to be a lot of options for people to consume content," explained David Beck, Univision svp and general manager of social media.
While in past tournaments the primary way to watch was on a TV screen, both outlets have dramatically boosted their digital offerings. Both ESPN and Univision will live stream the matches on their apps Watch ESPN and Univision Deportes, making mobile screens a viable option to stay connected.
Digital audiences will get additional video content that won't be seen on TV. The networks have zoned in on making sure that important moments like goals and penalties will be clipped into bite-sized materials in as close to real time as possible so fans can rewatch and share them with friends through social media. Online viewers will also get best-of recaps, analysis and other content based on highlights from the matches.
"I think this is the year mobile will define itself as the most trafficked source to watch the games," said Patrick Stiegman, VP and editorial director of ESPN digital and print media.
As more people depend on their devices, the importance of the second screen is rising, and supplemental editorial content and experiences are more important than ever.
In anticipation for the games, ESPN launched the ESPN FC app as a digital hub for its device-accessible soccer content. It also re-launched ESPNFC.com on June 1 with a more mobile adaptive interface. Users will get bonus commentary from TV personalities, as well as stories from 15 members of the ESPN digital team who are on the ground just to provide content for its online platforms. The sports network will also be working with ABC News to report stories around what is happening outside the games, from events in Rio to injury updates.
It's a lot of material, but ESPN users can pick and choose from the content palette. "We focused on creating a heavily personalized experience," Stiegman explained.
Univision is putting an extra effort towards getting fans involved in the experience. The Spanish-language media giant created a World Cup documentary out of Vine and Instagram submissions from fans around how soccer changed their lives. And it's attempting to create the longest soccer pass in a campaign called #granpase. The Spanish language network will string together clips of people around the world passing the ball from the left to the right of the screen, culminating with a user in Brazil.
"It used to be just you and your friends at a bar yelling with your voice, now you've got a microphone called Facebook, Instagram and Twitter," Beck said.
To bring things full circle, Univision will integrate Facebook and Instagram content into its linear broadcasts to show what real people are saying about the World Cup. "For us, it's really this 360-degree experience," said Scott Levine, svp of product and technology for Univision Communications Inc.
Additional coverage also means added opportunities for advertisers. AT&T and Adidas have made digital buys into ESPN's online coverage, while Univision counts Anheuser Busch, Coca-Cola and T-Mobile as some of its TV and digital ad partners.
"Univision has had an overwhelming response from advertisers who recognize that soccer—and the World Cup in particular—is by far the biggest sport for Hispanics,” said Keith Turner, Univision Communications Inc. president of ad sales and marketing.