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Drake: ESPN ratings should improve over 2010
by Paul Kennedy, June 8th, 2014 6:15PM

TAGS:  soccer business, television, world cup 2014


[SOCCER ON THE AIR] In a media conference call on Thursday, Jed Drake, ESPN’s executive producer for the World Cup, said favorable kickoff times, extending into prime time on the East Coast, not to mention a growing soccer fan base, make it a foregone conclusion that television ratings should improve over the record ratings of four years ago.

Brazilian time zones are almost identical to the East Coast and though kickoff times have been pushed up to accommodate European television, they work out well, Drake says, for the group stage.

"The matches on the East Coast are at 12:00, 3:00, and 6:00 primarily on those days that there are three matches," he said. "That's great. That means the third match of the day is going to end up in the prime time on the East Coast. So I mean, just from that perspective, we should have ratings candidly that will improve over 2010.  It's a foregone conclusion that the ratings should improve because of the time zones.
Beyond that, Drake acknowledged that how the USA does will impact the ratings but ESPN isn't hanging its hopes on its success in the group stage from which few give it a chance to advance.

"We did not do so in 2010," he said, "and the ratings, even when the U.S. went out, proved that the event itself is much bigger than just the success or lack thereof for the U.S. team."

Drake says 2010 was a milestone in American soccer, ending the indifference the country as a whole had with soccer.

"We fundamentally changed that in 2010," he said. "We did so through I think a production approach and marketing approach that made people understand how important this event is on the rest of the planet. By doing that, we created this understanding of just how important this event is. Now, I think, that has certainly carried through from 2010 in terms of soccer in general in the United States. But for this event, it does transcend soccer. This is a global event that people, I believe now, even in the United States, will tune into because of the sheer scope and magnitude of it. For now, 31 days, it is my hope that people truly do alter their lifestyle just to be able to watch this event in whatever form they can watch it on, whether it's on television, on a tablet, whether it's on the phone, whether it's on the radio, that they do that because that is the beauty of this event. That for four years, people can, in essence, put their lives aside and focus on the event for the sheer spectacle and enjoyment of it. That's what we did in 2010, and that is certainly our goal in 2014."

Drake said ESPN changed its approach in 2010 to focus on the knowledgeable soccer fan, and he said that audience has grown since then.

"So we'll continue down this path," he added, "because we do believe that for the soccer fan, we have that responsibility.  But we also recognize, and 2010 bore this out, that the casual viewer will come to this event just for the sheer spectacle of it, and when they do, they will become enamored with it, and they'll begin to understand what is being said by our commentators."

  1. Ginger Peeler
    commented on: June 8, 2014 at 4:43 p.m.
    Then please, please, PLEASE don't let Ian Darke call any of the USA's games!!! He makes no attempt to talk to the people who've grown up calling this sport SOCCER. We are to call it football, uniforms are kits, soccer shoes are boots, the field is the pitch, a struggling team is at sixes and sevens (I had to look that one up) and the medical trainers are the physios. He makes no effort to explain his terms. The casual viewer is going to be turned off by Darke's elitist attitude and certainly won't want to watch any more games. Darke clearly looks down on the American fan and is bound and determined to drag us into his world of the EPL. Rather than calling the play on the field, he talks almost nonstop about other leagues and constantly gives us warm and fuzzy information to help us feel closer to all of the players. Well, I don't have a large screen tv, so I can't see who just made that brilliant backheel pass, shot on goal, steal, etc. I don't want to hear the players' life stories, I want to hear the play on the field called! And, while Taylor Twellman is a cute kid (I was watching soccer before he was even born), he only acts as a yes man for Ian so they can share chuckles over their cleverness. If the US drops a goal down, Darke immediately goes into gloom and doom mode. If they go up a goal, he immediately goes into doubting Thomas (can they possibly hold on to their lead?) mode. While I'd prefer an all american commentator scenario, at least none of the other British guys are offensive. If he has to be in the booth, put duct tape over his mouth and let Twellman fumble his way through the game. Please!
  1. Zoe Willet
    commented on: June 8, 2014 at 7:08 p.m.
    I totally disagree with Ginger! I like Ian Darke's commentary immensely (way more than TT), do not find him elitist, enjoy hearing info about players and soccer in general. I don't mind that we have different terms for elements of the game. There is one problem, however, that ESPN needs to address- and NOW! Just yesterday I read about some horrid tv journalist on ESPN (his name is Michael something, maybe Waldon?) who said really unwarranted criticisms about Jurgen, ranting and raving, telling him to get out of the US and so forth. He obviously has no knowledge or regard for soccer, plus utter disrespect for himself, his audience, and certainly for Jurgen Klinsmann. ESPN needs to censor him and apologize to Jurgen.

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