World Cup Broadcasting Rights Pay Off For ESPN, Univision Renee Montagne talks to John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal about the business of watching the World Cup. It's been a boon for ESPN and Univision even with limited advertising during the games.

World Cup Broadcasting Rights Pay Off For ESPN, Univision

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And this Sunday, Germany and Argentina play the final game of the World Cup. If the last few weeks are any guide, a record number of Americans will be tuning in both on television and online. To hear more about the business of broadcasting soccer, we reached John Ourand, the media reporter at the Sports Business Journal. Good morning.

JOHN OURAND: Good morning Renee.

MONTAGNE: Now, ESPN and Univision have the exclusive rights in the U.S. to broadcast the World Cup. Univision has the Spanish-language rights - ESPN, the English language rights. And they must be very happy on this World Cup, given how popular it is.

OURAND: You know, I'm running out of superlatives to describe the television interest and the digital interest in these games. ESPN paid about $100 million for these games and the ones four years ago in South Africa. And Univision paid 325 million for them. And judging by the amount of people that are watching - 4 million, 5 million viewers for soccer in America - these games are really hitting the casual fan and bringing the casual fan in to watch more than ever before.

MONTAGNE: And people would be watching, not just on television, but also on what? - phones and tablets.

OURAND: For me, that's a big story of these games - is the amount of people that are streaming the games live via the Watch ESPN app or via Univision Sports app. ESPN says that if you aggregate the number of people that are watching online, you can add 10 percent to their TV viewership figures, which is a number that's really almost unheard of in the digital space.

MONTAGNE: Is that partly because a lot of the games are during the time when people can actually watch them - like here in California, the games at one o'clock - you can almost get away with a lunch-hour viewing.

OURAND: That's what you would think, and that's the way, historically, people have been streaming games during work hours. But now ESPN and Univision both say that on weekends, when presumably, people are in front of their TVs, they're not seeing much drop-off in terms of the number of streams coming in, which suggests to them that more people are streaming and becoming comfortable with streaming games.

MONTAGNE: One way broadcasters make money off events like this is selling advertising, and this is something interesting about the World Cup. The World Cup, unlike other big sporting events like the Olympics or the Super Bowl - there is not a constant stream of advertising breaks. So how have ESPN and Univision been making money?

OURAND: Well, they still sell advertising. They sell advertising in the pregame show and halftime show and the postgame show, but a lot of where ESPN and Univision are making money is because more people now are downloading the app. So they're able to bring in that bigger audience. More people are stuck on ESPN and watching the shows that precede it or follow it. Univision said in the first twenty days of the 2014 World Cup, they recorded the 20 most trafficked days in Univision Digital's history. So that - there's just a lot of activity and they're able to make a lot of money off that.

MONTAGNE: So the World Cup has done great for ESPN and Univision, but they're not going to have the next couple of World Cups.

OURAND: No. And that speaks to the popularity of the World Cup. Fox and Telemundo are going to carry the next two World Cups, one in Russia and one in Qatar. Fox and Telemundo ended up paying double in terms of a rights fee from what ESPN and Univision paid. So they see a real growth potential within the World Cup, which is almost amazing when you take a look at some of these numbers that are coming out.

MONTAGNE: What does this World Cup mean for the sport of soccer?

OURAND: I believe that the sport of soccer's doing very well in America. I believe that the success of the World Cup this year shows that the World Cup is a big event along the lines of the Olympics or along the lines of the NFL playoffs. In 2010, when the World Cup was in South Africa, ESPN set ratings records, but as soon as the event ended, the major league soccer in America - their TV ratings gained only slightly. I think it was less than five percent. Every four years, swimming on NBC at the Olympics brings more than 30 million people coming to watch it. But nobody ever suggests that swimming is going to be a big prime time show for a network. It's just an event that Americans like to rally round and cheer for their countrymen. And I do believe that soccer is on the Ascendancy in the U.S. But I think that has almost nothing to do with the interest in the World Cup.

MONTAGNE: John Ourand is a media reporter at Sports Business Journal. Thanks very much.

OURAND: Thanks Renee.

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