ESPN Makes Long Passes For 2014 World Cup

Related: Univision Connects to Brazil

After seeing record viewing levels for the 2010 FIFA World Cup games in South Africa, ESPN is pouring even more resources into its coverage of this year’s tournament, which will include more than 290 hours of coverage on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNews, ESPN Brasil and a variety of digital platforms.

“We have not done the World Cup on this kind of scale before,” says Claude Phipps, director, ESPN remote operations. “In South Africa, pretty much all of our facilities were located in one area,” but this time around the matches will be spread over 12 Brazilian cities. ESPN will have two main facilities in Rio de Janeiro, with coverage of all the action linked back to the network’s U.S. operations.

In Rio, ESPN will have a major presence in the main International Broadcast Center located in the Riocentro exhibition complex in the city’s Barra da Tijuca neighborhood. The facility will house master control rooms, studios, editing, EVS production systems and transmission gear.

ESPN is also building extensive facilities at Rio de Janeiro’s Clube dos Marimbás, a sailing club on the southern tip of Copacabana Beach. There, the network will have sets and control rooms for ESPN’s domestic operations, ABC, Good Morning America and international channels that will use the location’s spectacular views of the beach. More than 300 people will be working on the operation in Brazil.

All of this will be connected via fiber to the International Broadcast Center in Rio and to ESPN’s Bristol, Conn., campus, using some 15,000 miles of fiber, Phipps guestimates. “Our edit operations will be located in Bristol and some off-site editing facilities in Connecticut that will be connected to Brazil,” Phipps says. “The most interesting thing about this operation is how we are putting together so many operations in different areas that are separated across the continents.”

Vendors include broadcast services from Bexel and Gearhouse Broadcast; Grass Valley switchers and cameras; EVS, which is supplying its XT3 servers and a variety of other equipment; Vizrt for graphics and virtual reality systems; Adams for communications; Calrec and Lawo audio equipment; and microphones from Sennheiser and Electronic Arts.

Like other World Cup broadcast rights holders, ABC/ESPN will also extensively feed from FIFA’s Host Broadcast Services (HBS), which is producing all 64 matches and a massive amount of content around Brazil.

Time for Digital

Brazil’s time zones are much closer to the U.S. than South Africa, with Rio only one hour ahead of Eastern Daylight Time. Even so, 43 of the 64 matches will occur in the afternoon on weekdays, making digital platforms extremely important.

To tap into that demand, all 64 matches will be streamed on Watch ESPN and ESPN3 to authenticated pay-TV subscribers on computers, mobile phones, tablets and other devices. Viewers will also have access to the games in the DMAs where Watch ABC is available.

In addition to the live streams, Michael Andrews, senior director, product development at ESPN, notes they have completely redesigned their soccer-focused ESPN FC website and ESPN FC app using responsive design techniques. “The same code will render it across all screen sizes and devices and allow fans to easily access all the coverage ESPN is producing,” Andrews says.


Fox Sports, which recently won TV rights to the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup games in the U.S., and Fox International Channels will also have an extensive presence in Brazil.

They are deploying 22 digital SNG vans and two OB vans around the country; building facilities in the International Broadcast Center and other locations; and using an extensive fiber infrastructure to send content to channels around the world, reports Hernan Donnari, senior VP of operations and production services at Fox International Channels Latin America. “We will have more than 16 hours a day of coverage out of the facilities in Brazil,” he says.

Fox Sports is also adding a MatchTrax feature to to help users visualize and follow live soccer games. Created by Omnigon using responsive design techniques, it will launch just before the World Cup but has been built to handle all major soccer events going forward, reports Nick Arcuri, director of sports products at Omnigon.