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The qualifying round of the World Cup 2014 has become a milestone event for global second-screen TV applications, as evidenced by engagement on such diverse apps as Televisa’s Deportes (Mexico), ESPNSync, and L’Equipe Connect (France), and a range of offerings throughout the Americas.


Users have enjoyed making live predictions, rating player actions, sharing their passion, posting photos, videos, sharing opinions on topics (“was the yellow card deserved?”) and tweeting from the applications in numbers that have not been seen in the past.

During some qualification matches, more than 400,000 dual-screeners participated in sync with telecasts, according to Sync2TV, which powers interactive engagement for its client’s World Cup 2014 matches on iOS devices, Android devices, and on the web, providing live game stats, gamification, social buzz and video commentary.

“The World Cup 2014 has shown even greater uptake for second screen activity than we thought,” said Laurant Weill, founder and executive chairman of Visiware. “The second screen has become a key component of sports and entertainment consumption. Given that the US, French and Mexican teams have gone through to the qualifying rounds, we expect to see even greater engagement levels in the next round.”

He added, “Users are now telling us that they will no longer see a game without a second-screen experience.”

Multiscreen access has hit an all-time high thanks to the tournament, with broadcast and streaming services available on up to 5.9 billion screens globally. According to Ovum, PCs, tablets, and smartphones are providing alternatives to conventional TV viewing, accounting for 57% of all screens.

This holds true in the U.S. as well. In addition to setting a television viewership record, Sunday’s match also set product records on WatchESPN with a 490,000 average minute audience, and total of 1.4 million viewers and 61.7 million minutes viewed.

Second screens are also contributing to higher fan engagement. A quarter of 18-24 year olds in a Nielsen survey said they would post to social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) while tuning in to World Cup games (compared with 12% of all respondents) and over a third of respondents in that same demo (34%) would likely look up game, team or player stats on a mobile device during World Cup games.

Unlike four years ago, connected devices are playing a crucial role in evolving viewing habits for big-event TV. “Devices capable of streaming live and on-demand video – of which there now 4.7 billion – are providing additional viewing opportunities outside the appointment viewing taking place in people’s living rooms,” said Ted Hall, senior analyst at Ovum. “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.”

The reliability of online streams compared with traditional broadcasts remains a concern, however. “For broadcasters and operators providing multiplatform World Cup services, supplying demand with minimal technical hiccups should be of paramount concern,” said Hall. “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. 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.”

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