Sometimes you just have to hold your hands up. The prospect of pinning my Platform World Cup sweepstake hopes on England again – just four years after they wasted my last Platform World Cup sweepstake fiver – wasn’t one that I particularly relished. Lucky, then, to have Spain as my fall-back option.
Or not. Because sometimes football is a bit mad. Sometimes, the likes of Spain, Portgual and Argentina fall at the second hurdle. Sometimes, the likes of Germany don’t even clear the first. And sometimes every 22 years or so, England win a penalty shoot-out at a major tournament. Not that they’ll win the World Cup. Absolutely no chance. Nope. It just won’t happen.
World Cup Fever sparks mass viewing
It’s the hope that gets you in the end – and there is plenty of that around London this morning. World Cup fever is rising rapidly and viewers are watching the matches in their droves. The desire for the most immersive, interactive, social and mobile viewing experience possible is clearly visible.
Already, stats suggest that the estimated worldwide audience is likely to reach 3.4 billion people – almost half of the world’s 7.6 billion population. In the UK, last night’s World Cup penalty shootout between England and Colombia was watched by 23.6 million viewers on ITV – the highest watched programme of 2018 across all channels. In addition, ITV recorded the highest ever live audience for a streamed online programme in the process (3.3 million).
Every match during the tournament has been shot in 4K High Dynamic Range (HDR) and given that more than 100 million 4K UHD televisions will be sold worldwide this year, according to Futuresource Consulting’s ‘Worldwide TV Market Report’, this World Cup could prove to be the tipping point where 4K UHDTV takes off and becomes a widespread commercial success.
- BBC Sport has made 33 games available via the BBC Sport Virtual Reality (VR) 2018 FIFA World Cup app, enabling users to watch in what it describes as “a fully immersive environment – as if you were actually watching form inside the stadium in your own hospitality box.”
- In the U.S., Fox Sports and Telemundo are going all the way, streaming all 64 matches live to their subscribers in VR. Quartz reports Fox has offered a virtual suite where users can create customizable avatars and watch the VR live stream with friends and other viewers. Telemundo’s VR experience features live 180-degree video, with highlights and goals in 360-degree video.
The Video Assistant Referee: Video and Football converge
Of course, this year’s big video game changer has been the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR). The TV footage has now become part of the match itself. Throughout the tournament, 12 referees have been chosen to sit in a remote location in Moscow, armed with multiple camera angles and miked-up to have instant communication with on-field match officials. They have been tasked with deciding “clear and obvious errors” with regards to goals, penalties, straight red cards and mistaken identity. VAR could have changed history, although sadly a few years too late in some cases (*shudders at the memory*).
Has it been a success so? Undoubtedly, according to FIFA, who said VAR enabled referees to get “99.3% decisions” correct during the group stages, analysing 335 incidents, referring 17 decisions for referral, of which 14 were changed upon the on-field referee’s review. Not that it’s been infallible – if you want to make your own verdicts, ESPN has poured over 29 VAR reviews from day one of the tournament through to July 2.
The Platform Sweepstake
And so, to the quarter-finals. Of those left in the Platform sweepstake, Chloe has a free pass to the semi-finals as her two sides, France and Uruguay, go head-to-head on Friday lunchtime. The evening fixture sees Hugh’s Brazil slugging it out with Philip’s Belgian hopefuls. Saturday features the hosts Russia against Croatia, in a battle of Platform Account Managers (Darcie and Zoe respectively). Then of course, there’s Will and I, as Sweden take on…No. Sorry. I can’t bear to even talk about it. Roll on the weekend.