ABC and ESPN to broadcast World Cup

August 17, 2005

BRISTOL, Conn. -- ABC and ESPN will broadcast their fourth straight World Cup next year and will televise all 64 games in high definition. The networks will not decide until after the draw on Dec. 9 how to split the games among ABC, ESPN and ESPN2, they said Wednesday.

All games of the tournament, which will be played in Germany from June 9 to July 9, will be broadcast live. For the 2002 World Cup, which was in Japan and South Korea, 58 games were televised live, with the final on ABC, 16 on ESPN and the rest on ESPN2. Because of the 13-hour time difference to the East Coast of the United States, games were on during the middle of the night.

All games were broadcast live during the 1998 tournament in France, with ABC televising 14, ESPN 27 and ESPN2 23. Germany, like France, has a six-hour time difference to the U.S. East Coast.

The networks, owned by The Walt Disney Co., acquired the rights from Soccer United Marketing, an affiliate of Major League Soccer. SUM said it basically gets the air time for free, sells advertising and covers production costs, while the networks' affiliates sell some advertising time.

Leah LaPlaca, ESPN's senior director of programming and acquisitions, declined comment on the financial arrangements.

At least 20 high-definition cameras will be used for each game by the host broadcaster. ABC and ESPN plan to have their announcers at a majority of the games but will have them call some of the games from studios in the United States.

LaPlaca said that ESPN/ESPN2 also plans to televise two European Champions League games most weeks when the tournament is going on this season. In recent years, ESPN/ESPN2 have broadcast only one game in many weeks.

SUM paid about $40 million to buy the U.S. TV and radio rights to the 2002 and 2006 World Cups and the 2003 Women's World Cup from German media company Kirch Group. Kirch purchased the rights from FIFA, soccer's governing body, in May 2001.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press