Billions across Asia to watch football World Cup

Agencies June 17, 2010

SINGAPORE: Billions of people around the world are expected to watch the World Cup at some point during the tournament with media operators in Asia eyeing record audiences.

This does not take into account the millions more streaming over the internet or on mobile devices where live alerts and even live games will keep fans abreast of the action wherever they are. Also, some games will be broadcast in 3-D, with South Korea’s SBS carrying action in this format along with ESPN in the US and Sogecable in Spain.

While many fans watching will be in Europe, where football is akin to a religion, huge numbers will be glued to their sets in Asia, which is home to some 60 percent of the world’s population.

Emerging cash cows

China Central Television won the rights to broadcast, free-to-air, all 64 matches, making it the main avenue for the country’s 1.3 billion people to view the event. The station reaches up to 97 per cent of China’s population, with some estimates saying a cumulative 900 million watched the 2006 tournament, which explains why it is seen as the sport’s top future growth market. The official China Daily said the station paid $292 million for the rights.

Football fanatics

The subcontinent is another huge emerging market and, despite cricket being the number one sport, the World Cup will be followed closely. All matches are being shown live on the pan-Asian ESPN-Star network, which bid $40 million to secure the rights for South Asia, beating Ten Sports and Neo Sports to the deal. The coverage will include commentary in both English and Hindi, with officials estimating 125 million in India alone will be watching.

Published in the Express Tribune, June 4th, 2010.

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