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World Cup’s digital kick

Event has gone mobile

The World Cup has gone mobile in a big way.

Stats from FIFA.com, the website of the international soccer org that runs the tournament, confirm that digital viewing is building fast on computers and mobile devices, including smartphones.

Since the World Cup kicked off June 11, the traffic on online services showing Cup content has exceeded expectations on both sides of the Atlantic — a powerful illustration of how sports are driving new-media platforms.

FIFA.com drew a record 53 million viewers and generated 1.6 billion page views so far — way up since 2006 when FIFA.com attracted 48 million unique users over the four weeks of the World Cup. The use of mobile devices has grown at an enormous pace since then.

FIFA anticipated the World Cup’s digital coming of age by licensing mobile content rights directly for the first time. As many as 80 territories have gained access to World Cup mobile content.

The org used a designated camera featuring tighter framing to produce a specific mobile feed for the 64 matches.

“We have a dedicated production team of 60 people producing specific content for mobile screens in 11 languages,” said a rep for FIFA. “With the development of smartphones, we expect that in 2014 for the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, many more people will have access to live streaming of the matches, or at least videos, via the mobile platform.”

Stats on online and mobile content consumption show that nontraditional devices are gaining ground and don’t appear to be cannibalizing TV auds — to the relief of broadcasters.

Instead, “These offerings complement each other and allow us to keep in contact with viewers wherever they are,” said Thierry Espalioux, director of content for eTF1, the Gallic commercial network’s digital division. “People will often check out the website or their mobiles while watching the game on TV to see stats, interact with other viewers, read analysis and look at replays.”

In the U.S., ESPN, which reportedly paid $100 million for the rights to the 2010 and 2014 World Cup, attracted 3.4 million unique users on ESPN3.com June 11-18. The website’s record traffic was registered June 18, when 798,911 unique viewers watched the U.S. play Slovenia.

On the heels of the U.S. victory over Algeria, American visits to soccer sites increased 22% Wednesday over the day before, according to Experian Hitwise. Visits were up 10% over the previous Wednesday. Broadcast websites saw a 6% increase for the day and 10% for the week.

Gallic website coupe-du-monde.tf1.fr, which was launched May 11 by TF1 and sports website Eurosport, has drawn more than 22 million visits. The largest numbers came June 22 afternoon as more than 2 million users consulted the website throughout the day and 750,000 visitors turned up to watch France lose to South Africa.

As Espalioux said, “Afternoon games have generated the bigger peaks online and on mobile because people watch them at work.”

In the U.K., pubcaster BBC and commercial giant ITV split the rights to stream live games. ITV Live — the broadcaster’s online companion featuring a dual screen — attracted an average of 130,000 unique visitors for all ITV games; and more than 1 million users over the World Cup’s first week.

However, Screen Digest analyst Marie Bloomfield said there were still reception problems to overcome. She said mobile and the Internet were not as stable as traditional platforms in many territories, although infrastructure continued to improve.

“This will restrict the availability and hinder performance, particularly for live streaming,” she said.

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