While there is still one more year of sales for the 2014 finals to be reported, this is slightly less revenue than FIFA generated over the first three years of sales for the 2010 finals.
A lack of growth for TV rights revenues for the finals could mean that FIFA pursues more pay TV deals for future events – especially if it is unable to generate increases in its contracts in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
Unlike most top-tier football leagues, the World Cup will mainly air on free TV – partly because of the way the rights have been sold by FIFA (most European rights are bought through the EBU) and partly because matches involving national teams and the final match itself are ‘listed’ events ring- fenced for terrestrial TV in many countries. In Europe, EBU members like the BBC and ITV in the UK, ARD and ZDF in Germany and SVT and TV4 in Sweden will be offering blanket coverage of the event. They will not only be showing matches on their main linear channels, but streaming them online and on apps live and on catch-up.
Pay TV will not be entirely out of the game. France’s TF1 – having decided that the €130m it paid for rights is too much to recoup from ad sales – has sublicensed all 64 matches to BeInSport in France. Both TF1 and the Al Jazeera-owned network will simulcast the French national team’s matches and the knockout stages. In Italy, Rai has similarly sold off rights to all matches to the 21st Century Fox satellite platform Sky Italia, while retaining 25 matches.
Despite the plethora of alternative platforms and the audience fragmentation caused by on demand and catch-up options, live sport is still capable of attracting massive audiences. According to FIFA’s own research into viewing of the 2010 finals in South Africa, the decisive match between Spain and the Netherlands pulled in an average audience of 531 million viewers, of which 489 million – the vast majority – viewed the event live. In Germany, the 31 million viewers for the national team’s semi-final with Spain on Das Erste was the largest audience ever measured for a single channel. Half the population of the Netherlands viewed the final. The average audience on TV Globo for matches featuring Brazil was over 44 million.
Audiences are naturally affected by the performance of the national team, and this year there are some concerns about adverse kick-off times. The England v Italy match on 14 June will kick off at 11pm UK time and midnight in Italy. Socceroos fans in Australia will have to be awake at 1.30am for matches against the Netherlands and Spain. Japan’s match against Colombia kicks off at 5am local time. However, timings are of course more friendly in most of the Americas (the USA’s first round matches are all on ESPN and Univision and start at 6pm EST) and timings for the knockout phases at weekends and early evenings will not disrupt fans’ sleep patterns in Europe. World Champion Spain’s first match against the Netherlands will kick off at 9pm – perfect for local primetime.