The 'third screen' comes of age in the 2014 World Cup

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The 2014 FIFA World Cup being held in Brazil this year marks a watershed in sports viewing, with on-demand video and multimedia content really being pushed out to multiple devices for the first time.

While many people still like to watch the "big game" on a single TV screen with friends at home or in a bar, technology has advanced in the last 15 years so that image quality has improved beyond recognition, camera angles have multiplied and TVs have got smarter.

The internet and connection to PCs became the second screen, but the boom in tablets and smartphones has introduced the third screen and the concept of "television everywhere" has now come into vogue.

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Latin America expects to see smartphone shipments increase to 122mn in 2014, up 28% from 2013, and tablets are expected to account for 46.4% of all PCs sold in Brazil this year.


DirecTV has been one of the leaders in World Cup TV technology dating back to France 1998 when they introduced multiple audio options, allowing viewers to choose the language in which they wanted to hear the match commentary.

Korea-Japan in 2002 saw the first multi-camera angles introduced and in Germany 2006 the first images were shot in 16:9, the widescreen format that has become standard for high definition (HD) and digital television today.

South Africa 2010 saw all 64 games shot in HD, but Brazil 2014 has become the World Cup in which multimedia has really come into its own.

On DirecTV's main screen, viewers can see the so-called "mosaic" with five different screens broadcasting at the same time. These include the main feed, or match, a screen showing the players at the training ground, a screen showing highlights of previous matches as well as replays of goals of a live match and then screens of team A and team B, which show close-up shots of key players both on the pitch and on the bench.

"DirecTV really tries to transport the viewer to the stadium," Guillermo Barreto, head of sports programming for DirecTV Latin America, told BNamericas.

"If you're watching the main feed on open TV you're seeing what the TV station wants you to see. If you're in the stadium your eyes tend to wander. You start looking at other things like what people are doing on the side of the pitch. Are players warming up? What is the coach doing?" Barreto said.

FIFA supplies all the cameras in stadiums, which total 34, including cameras inside the goal and the famous Spidercam that enables television cameras to move both vertically and horizontally over the pitch.


For Brazil 2014, organizing body FIFA really pushed the idea of the mobile application and gave broadcasters like DirecTV the mobile rights to show the games on their apps. The app takes the user experience to a new level.

While also accessing the multiple screen views, users can browse match calendars, compare player and team statistics, choose video clips and highlights on-demand, as well as interact with social networks.

"You may be watching the game with friends but you may also be watching it alone and want to feel connected to the rest of the world," Barreto said.

"So you may watch it on separate screens, connect to Twitter or Facebook and want to comment and share opinions. You may also want to really dig down, follow the game, follow statistics, and choose to view the game from multiple angles on the multi-channel, and our app allows you to do that," he added.

The mobile world also opens up new advertising channels, adding new banners in addition to any adverts already on the channels.

"We're seeing more and more demand for mobile rights especially for sports. Unlike on-demand viewing like Netflix where people watch a series, people want to consume sports live," Barreto said.

The DirecTV app is available for download for free for subscribers. The company is also offering month-long prepaid options for the duration of the World Cup.

So while perhaps nothing still beats the real experience of being in the stadium, sports viewing has entered a new era, from which there is no turning back.