The World Cup soccer matches on ESPN over the past few weeks have been so stirring that it makes you wonder if soccer will really gain a foothold as a major sport in the U.S. once a champion has been crowned. The athleticism, the conditioning, the patience and strategy to attack at just the right time make futbol irresistible. Anyone who watched Netherlands star Robin Van Persie track a ball that traveled 40 yards on the fly and then somehow head it at full sprint, and watch it land in the net just beyond the goalie’s reach, can see how remarkable this game is when played at high level. But can the sport ever catch on here–where the top sport is the kind of football where players get smashed and jump right back into the huddle–with all of the rampant flopping that seems such a distraction in these World Cup matches? In today’s tense match between Brazil and Colombia, there were more awards caliber performances delivered than in American Hustle and 12 Years A Slave, combined. After every collision, a player hit the ground in agony and stayed there, like they’d been shot by a rifle. If there was no whistle, they healed in remarkably quick fashion, jumped up and joined in the sprint for the ball. It seems to be getting progressively worse, because the refs are falling for these performances time and again. Even Reggie Miller, the Indiana Pacers sharpshooter …
UPDATE: World Cup Ratings: England v Italy Gives ESPN Most-Watched Non-U.S. Group Match; BBC One Scores 11.5M Viewers
Spoiler alert if you haven’t seen match…
UPDATE 4:28 PM PT: The England-Italy game that was played on Saturday averaged a 2.6 rating for ESPN with 4.615M viewers. That makes it ESPN/ESPN2’s most-watched non-U.S. Group Stage World Cup game ever. The network says that only three U.S. men’s Group Stage matches have delivered a larger audience (the side has yet to take the field this year). In terms of household ratings, England’s defeat at the hands of the Azzurri is the 2nd highest-rated non-U.S. Group Stage World Cup game, falling behind Thursday’s Brazil-Croatia opener which scored a record overnight average of 3.2 in the metered markets. Univision, meanwhile, reports that its World Cup audience is 25% larger among total viewers than in 2010 through eight matches. Yesterday was the most-watched Saturday of Group play in Univision Deportes’ World Cup history, the network says. Those matches included Colombia-Greece, Uruguay-Costa Rica and England-Italy. Today’s big match-ups included France versus Honduras, which ended a few hours ago, and Argentina versus Bosnia-Herzegovina, who are still on the pitch. Germany faces off with Portugal tomorrow at 12 PM ET, but what Americans will really have their eyes on is how the U.S. fares against Ghana at 6 PM ET.
Spoiler alert if you haven’t seen match…
UPDATE, 1:22 PM PT: Friday’s Spain-Netherlands game, which rematched the 2010 World Cup final adversaries, scored a 2.0 rating for ESPN with 3.1M viewers on Friday. That was down from the record 4.4M total viewers the network had for Thursday’s opener between Brazil and Croatia. Univision, which is also airing the games Stateside, has offered up its household ratings with the LA market pulling a 5.1 for the Spaniards versus the Dutch; New York was a 3.2. Today (or at midnight tonight if you’re in Europe like I am) England faces off with Italy in what is expected to be a massively watched game, on this side of the world for sure.
PREVIOUS, 2:35 AM PT: Last night’s match between defending World Cup champions Spain and their adversary in the 2010 final in South Africa, the Netherlands, was eagerly anticipated at home and abroad. But in what was an unexpected rout, the Dutch team bested the Spaniards by a staggering 5-1. In the Netherlands, the match was watched by an average 7.2M on Nederland 1. The audience peaked just before the end of play with 8.3M. In Spain, it was watched by 11.2M for a 68.5% share according to local reports. Watching from the sidelines, the UK registered an average 8.22M …
ESPN Says It’s Ready To Go With World Cup, Brazil Not So Much; Improved Ratings A “Foregone Conclusion”
With one week to go before Brazil faces Croatia in the opening game of the 2014 soccer World Cup in Sao Paulo, ESPN SVP and executive producer Jed Drake says his team’s preparation has been going “exceptionally well” and that what ends up on air “is going to be tremendous and worthy of the event itself.” That said, the local “infrastructure is not what it should have been.” As expected, some of the stadiums “are not at the level of completion the country would have liked to have them at this point.” But, the infrastructure issues — which will present a “big challenge” to the crowds — won’t have an effect on the telecasts. “We’re going to be fine,” Drake said. But, he’s cautioned producers and commentators, “Time and patience are going to be your biggest allies. You’re going to need large measures of both.” Drake is confident the ratings will rise for the network’s coverage of the beautiful game, but is also prepared to cut away to news if protests “or anything that goes to a higher level” should unfold. With the country in a state of un-preparedness, a crime wave has broken out in Rio and threats of protests have been looming for more than a year over economic and planning problems related to the World Cup and impending Olympics. ABC News has a large contingent headed to Brazil and Drake says ESPN will “shift gears and go into news programming” if necessary.
Deadline’s International Editor Nancy Tartaglione and host David Bloom wrap up the major box office trends across Europe, China and South America this past year and moving into 2014, including what impacts the 2014 World Cup will have on the film business in host country Brazil and other soccer-mad countries; ponder the just-breaking news about a change of Hollywood “gatekeepers” at the top of China Film Group; look at two hugely successful films burning hot and cold across the global box office this past week; and put the telescope on the Rising Stars reaching for one of BAFTA’s coolest awards.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Thomas Bezucha Helms ‘Priceless’ Remake; BBC Adds Ex-Sony Chairman Howard Stringer; More
Thomas Bezucha Directing English-Language Remake Of ‘Priceless’
The Family Stone and Monte Carlo director Thomas Bezucha will helm the English-language remake of French romantic comedy Priceless for European film group uMedia. The original movie starred Audrey Tautou and Gad Emaleh and sold 2.15M tickets in France in 2006. Umedia’s remake has been greenlighted for production in early summer on the French Riviera. The story follows Alec, a shy and hardworking waiter at a grand hotel who is mistaken for a millionaire and seduced by a captivating American girl with expensive tastes. When Lauren discovers his true identity and limited resources, she takes off, but Alec pursues her along the Cote-d’Azur. When he ends up stranded and broke, he is saved by a wealthy woman-of-a-certain-age and finds himself kept in the same manner as Lauren, who coaches him on how the play the game as her feelings for him deepen. Pierre Salvadori directed the original which was sold internationally by Wild Bunch.
BBC Adds Howard Stringer Amid Corporate Changes
The BBC has announced a series of changes to transform how the corporation is run. At the same time, it has added former Sony chairman Howard Stringer as a non-executive director for a term of three years beginning January 1. The moves come a year after myriad crises began to plague the broadcaster including the Jimmy Savile child sex abuse scandal and the editorial missteps at flagship news program Newsnight. Among the changes are a 60% reduction in the number of pan-corporation management boards “so that senior managers will be able to make faster decisions and concentrate on running their teams and departments.” Decision making by multiple committees will shift to much greater personal responsibility, ensuring “there are no blurred lines,” the broadcaster said. “As a creative organization, individuals need to be able to take creative risks without fear, managers will not be penalized for brave, well-made decisions that were taken for the right reasons.” Speaking about the changes, director general, Tony Hall, said, “This is an important first step in making the BBC simpler and better run.”