FIFA World Cup 2014 is set to be the most accessible in the tournament’s history, with broadcast and streaming services available on up to 5.9 billion screens globally.
That's according to research from Ovum analysts, which has found PCs, tablets, and smartphones are providing alternatives to conventional TV viewing, accounting for 57 per cent of all screens.
However, with football fans keen to watch the matches on the biggest screen and in the highest resolution possible, Ovum stresses the importance of traditional broadcasting – via terrestrial, cable, satellite, or IPTV – for attracting the largest audiences and generating the most value for World Cup rights holders.
Research found connected devices were playing a crucial role in evolving viewing habits for big-event TV.
Ovum senior analyst, Ted Hall, said devices capable of streaming live and on-demand video – of which there are now 4.7 billion – were providing additional viewing opportunities outside the appointment viewing taking place in people’s living rooms,
“With the likes of tablets providing the convenience and flexibility to consume content whenever and wherever, fans are able to watch more of the tournament than ever before,” he said.
However, the reliability of online streams compared with traditional broadcasts remains a concern.
Hall said, for broadcasters and operators providing multi-platform World Cup services, supplying demand with minimal technical hiccups should be of paramount concern.
“Having set consumer expectations for TV Everywhere, providers must now deliver on the promise of their offerings, as failure to do so can result in bad press and, more importantly, frustrated fans," he said.
"While viewing live events online is improving, there is some way to go before it can compare with the reliability traditional TV distribution offers for the largest audiences.”
Significant innovation of the viewing experience for this World Cup is somewhat lacking, in Ovum’s view.
The tournament will not, for instance, provide the launch pad for the much-vaunted 4K Ultra high-definition format.
FIFA and technology partner, Sony, are capturing three matches in 4K.
However, very few people see them in this resolution, with screenings limited to public venues in Rio de Janeiro.
Hall said 4K technology was far from ready for home viewing, with holes in the transmission part of the ecosystem.
This means it will be some time before audiences of any significant scale will be watching UHDTV content in their living rooms.
“And with FIFA abandoning its support of 3DTV for Brazil 2014 – in light of the format’s dramatic failure to capture the public’s imagination – the less-glamorous HDTV will be the preferred format of many World Cup viewers, with up to 260 million homes watching matches in high-definition.”