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ESPN leverages TV Anywhere for the World Cup

(Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports)

(Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports)

ESPN knows they only have the broadcasting rights to the 2014 World Cup and not the ones in 2018 and 2022 right?

You’d have no idea from the looks of it, as ESPN increases its coverage of the upcoming World Cup, promoting and showing matches across multiple platforms. The Worldwide Leader in Sports will make every game available to fans across the nation through WatchESPN as well as ESPN3.com, meaning if you have a cable subscription, you can watch the US National team go through the gauntlet in Brazil on any internet connected device!

While the all-encompassing coverage is sure to be appreciated by soccer fans across the globe, it seems at first surprising since ESPN really has no future vested interest in the World Cup. However, at a recent media event ESPN President John Skipper stated, “we’re going to treat it as the event it is, not really thinking about 2018 or 2022. Our goal here is to leave with a very, very high bar.”

And that high bar serves a more important, overriding purpose.

In the recent years ESPN’s competition has increased from a variety of new and established players. Fox Sports 1 was launched last summer as the most direct threat, in addition to NBC Sports Network and several other sports networks that are already well known content providers, such as the Big Ten Network and the NFL network.

ESPN can’t afford to do anything halfhearted and in fact they’re doing the exact opposite– investing heavily in new facilities, new media rights, and even a whole new television network. By dominating the World Cup coverage this year, ESPN is showcasing to current and future media partners that it broadcasts major sporting events better than any other network.

Skipper has stated publicly that ESPN’s mission is simply to “serve sports fans,” which also explains the company’s WatchESPN strategy, being that fans are consuming content on mobile and other devices at high rate:

In February . . . 43% of ESPN’s unique users – 24.5 million people – exclusively accessed content on smartphones and tablets, and 48% of all time spent with ESPN digital content came from mobile device users.  A year ago 32% of ESPN’s unique users were exclusive to mobile platforms and 37% of all time spent came from mobile device users.

Just as important for the network is that advertisers are increasingly investing in the space.

So while this is ESPN’s last go around with the World Cup, the company is just scratching the surface with its all-important business of streaming live sports online.

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