The 2014 FIFA World Cup is sizing up to be the most accessible in the tournament’s history, as the combined reach of broadcast TV and streaming options are poised to make the matches available on up to 5.9 billion screens worldwide, estimates research firm Ovum.
According to Ovum, alternative access on PCs, tablets and smartphones account for 57% of those screens, though most fans are keen to watch on the biggest screens in the highest resolution possible.
“Devices capable of streaming live and on-demand video – of which there now 4.7 billion – are providing additional viewing opportunities outside the appointment viewing taking place in people’s living rooms,” said Ted Hall, senior analyst at Ovum, in a statement. “With the likes of tablets providing the convenience and flexibility to consume content whenever and wherever, fans are able to watch more of the tournament than ever before.”
Among recent results in the U.S., ESPN’s broadcast of the Group G opener between the U.S. and Ghana on June 16 averaged a 6.3 rating and nearly 11.1 million viewers, making it the network’s most-watched men’s futbol game so far. The match also helped to establish a new record for the WatchESPN app, which was host to 1.4 million viewers and 62.4 million minutes viewed for the contest.
If there’s anything lacking, innovation-wise, for the 2014 iteration of the tournament, it’s the limited access to games in the 4K/Ultra HD format, Ovum noted. FIFA and Sony will produce three matches in the format, though most access will be limited to small screenings, and, as of this writing, none of those games will be offered live via 4K in the U.S.
“4K technology is far from ready for home viewing, with holes in the transmission part of the ecosystem meaning that it will be some time before audiences of any significant scale will be watching UHDTV content in their living rooms,” Hall said.
But the 4K ecosystem is expected to be much more evolved by the 2018 World Cup. On the display side, more than 20% of connected flat panel TVs will be 4K-capable, Cisco Systems predicted in its latest Visual Networking Index Global IP Traffic Forecast.