ESPN Starts Rolling Toward the World Cup

ESPN’s evp of content, John Skipper said today that the network will “leave no soccer ball unturned,” as it begins its road to the 2010 World Cup, which it will televise live from South Africa beginning June 11.

In a preview to the media, Skipper and other ESPN executives reviewed the editorial and promotional content the network will televise over the next 57 days before the first match between host South Africa and Mexico opens the tournament on Friday, June 11 at 9:30 a.m.

Jed Drake, executive producer of the World Cup telecasts for ESPN, said between now and the start of the tournament, about 100 hours of editorial content supporting the Cup will be aired on ESPN’s studio shows like Sports Center. That will include Goal, in which ESPN will profile all the living players who have scored goals in the World Cup finals dating back to 1950; Voices of Africa, which ties in South African cultural history with soccer; and profiles of all 32 World Cup teams.

“It’s important for viewers to understand the scope of this event and the uniqueness of it being held in South Africa,” Drake explained. “We want to focus [not only] on the event itself, but also want to educate viewers about the culture and history of the people of South Africa. We believe FIFA [Federation Internationale de Football Association] brought the World Cup there because an event like this would accelerate the growth of the country and its economy.”

Drake said once the tournament begins, the editorial content surrounding the games will be even more “pervasive.” The network is planning 65 hours of live studio programming that will originate from a 2,000 square-foot set in Johannesburg and run throughout the tournament on U.S. television, with another nine hours of daily content on ESPN Deportes.

During the Cup tournament, ESPN will also air “Umlando,” Zulu for “Through My Father’s Eyes,” a 10-part series in which musician and anti-Apartheid activist Hugh Massekela takes his son Sal, host of ESPN’s X Games and co-host of E! network’s The Daily 10, on a historical tour of the country.

ESPN will also televise a film made for it’s 30-30 program titled The Two Escobars, beginning on June 21 on ESPN Deportes and on June 22 on ESPN. The film will first premiere next week at the Tribeca Film Festival. The documentary talks about the passion Colombian drug dealer Pablo Escobar had for soccer and how, in 1994, the World Cup-favored Colombian team lost when Andres Escobar inadvertently caromed a ball into his team’s goal. Several days later back in Colombia, Andres Escobar was gunned down in a barrage of bullets.

In addition to its shoulder editorial content, ESPN is spending a record amount for a single event with promotional spots under the One Game Changes Everything banner. An initial four TV spots, set to the music of U2 are running this month through June. And beginning June 11, ESPN will use specially recorded music by the Soweto Gospel Choir recorded and filmed in South Africa, with music and footage from U2’s concert in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena last October.

The musical collaboration will appear in every program throughout ESPN’s coverage, which includes 64 matches in high definition with 44 on ESPN, 10 on ESPN2 and 10 on ABC broadcast network. In all, there will be 230 hours of coverage televised.

ESPN is approaching its commercial sellout level with advertisers AT&T, EA Sports, Cisco, Heineken, U.S. Marines, M&M Mars, Adidas, Sony, Hyundai and Anheuser-Busch all on board. The network also has the rights to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and Skipper is not planning to relinquish the TV rights to World Cups beyond that, when the rights go up for bid sometime in 2011.

Publish date: April 14, 2010 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT