World Cup Launches World’s First 3DTV Channel

MULTIPLE CITIES: The venerable World Cup events commenced June 11 in Johannesburg, South Africa’s 94,000-capacity Soccer City stadium. The host city’s team took on Mexico in the opening match of the month-long championship, carried on television around the world for the first time in 3D. The June 11 game marked the launch of ESPN 3D in the United States--the first full-time 3D programming channel in the world.

The soccer tournament promises to be a huge television event this year, having drawn global cumulative viewership of 26 billion in 2006. More 208 nations participate in the World Cup’s qualifying tournaments; more than in the Olympics (205) or the United Nations (194). A total of 32 teams will play in 64 World Cup matches over the next month.

Several programming distributors announced carriage plans in the days leading up to the June 11 opening ceremony. TVB presents a summary of announcements and World Cup viewing data.


  • • ESPN’s 3DTV channel becomes the first ever programming service dedicated full-time to 3D.
  • • ESPN will carry 25 of the 64 World Cup games in 3D.
  • • ESPN will become a pioneer in 3D ads with spots from Sony, Gillette, Disney’s Pixar Studio and in-house promos.
  • • DirecTV is launching 3DTV service today with ESPN’s 3D channel. (Coverage schedule is here.)
  • • AT&T’s U-verse IPTV service launched 3DTV with ESPN 3D today.
  • • Comcast launched 3DTV with today’s ESPN coverage.
  • • Sony is the main sponsor of World Cup 3DTV coverage.
  • • Five of the 10 World Cup venues are equipped for 3D.
  • • Eight matches will be broadcast live in 3D to digital cinema theaters in 26 countries.
  • • France’s Canal+ said it will carry at least a dozen World Cup games in 3D.
  • • Spain’s Sogecable is carrying the 3D coverage.
  • • Canadian Broadcasting Corp. teamed with cable operators Rogers, Shaw and Cogeco to provide 3D coverage.
  • • Canada’s Telus cable system will carry the final two games in 3D from ESPN’s feed.


  • • ESPN Mobile will carry 46 matches.
  • • FLO TV, MobiTV, Verizon’s VCast and AT&T carry ESPN Mobile.
  • • MobiTV expects a 300 to 500 percent spike in viewership for the World Cup.
  • • MobiTV expects to increase its 10 million subscriber base by up to 5 percent.
  • • All games will be streamed in Spanish via Univision Movil on Verizon’s VCast service.
  • • Univision launched a mobile app to support its coverage.
  • • 21 percent of soccer fans around the world intend to watch some of the World Cup on broadband devices, according to Nielsen.
  • • 9 percent said they would watch on their cell phones.
  • • 23 percent of U.S. fans intend to check out World Cup coverage in mobile phones.


  • • ABC will carry 10 matches starting with the U.S. Men’s National Team tourney opener against England tomorrow (Saturday, June 12) at 3 p.m. Eastern.
  • • ABC’s coverage concludes with the title match Sunday, July 11 at 1:30 p.m. Eastern from Soccer City in Johannesburg.


  • • DirecTV will deliver all 64 games in HD to 25.6 million subscribers in the United States and Latin America.
  • • DirecTV is the only U.S. satellite provider carrying the 3DTV World Cup feed.
  • • Dish Network launched Univision’s 24/7 FIFA World Cup Channel.


  • • Charter Cable added the 64 FIFA World Cup matches carried by ESPN to a new video-on-demand tier.
  • • Time Warner Cable will offer Univision’s coverage as video-on-demand 24 hours after play.
  • • Cox is carrying HD coverage from ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC; Spanish-language coverage from Univision; coverage in Arabic, German, Japanese and Korean on ESPN3; and in Portuguese on ESPN Desportes.
  • • Cablevision launched high-definition feeds of Univision and TeleFutura in anticipation of the World Cup.



  • • More than 120 million U.S. viewers tuned into the last World Cup in 2006.
  • • Average viewing audience was 65 percent male/35 percent female.
  • • 17 million people watched the live final between Italy and France.
  • • The most-watched game featuring the U.S. team was during a preliminary-round match with Italy, drawing 9.8 million
  • • The 2006 tournament was the first to include Univision in Nielsen ratings. Its 56 telecasts averaged 2.3 million viewers compared to 4.8 million on English language broadcast TV and 1.6 million on cable.
  • • San Diego, Calif., was the top market for English-language broadcasts; Miami was the top Spanish-language market. Los Angeles was second for both.


  • • Japan intends to employ holographic TV in its bid to host the World Cup in 2022.
  • • Granite Broadcasting launched a campaign across its 12 TV stations to bring the World Cup to the United States in either 2018 or 2022.

-- Deborah D. McAdams