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List of FIFA World Cup broadcasters
The FIFA World Cup was first broadcast on television in 1954 and is now the most widely viewed and followed sporting event in the world, exceeding even the Olympic Games. 715.2 million individuals watched the final match of the 2006 tournament (representing 11 percent of the entire population of the planet). The 2006 World Cup draw, which decided the distribution of teams into groups, was watched by 300 million viewers.
Over 100 nations have provided wall-to-wall coverage since the communications satellite launchings allowed for worldwide coverage beginning in 1966. European coverage of the World Cup has been extensive since 1954 (though with the World Cup held in Chile in 1962, much of the Euro coverage that year was tape-delayed).
Broadcasts of the qualification for the World Cup Finals for England is currently held by ITV (terrestrial, home and away matches) with Sky holding rights for home and away matches for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These were previously held by the BBC but BBC have highlights of each home nation in their respective nation so BBC Scotland show Scotland highlights, BBC Wales show Wales highlights and BBC Northern Ireland show NI highlights.
However, coverage of the World Cup Finals is on a government mandated 'protected' list meaning it must be shown on free-to-air terrestrial television (BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Five) as opposed to satellite or cable television. Although only one broadcaster is required, the two biggest terrestrial operators, the BBC and ITV, have always made a joint bid for coverage with broadcast of the Home Nations matches (particularly England) alternating between the broadcasters up to the later stages of the tournament. This is believed to prevent an extremely expensive bidding war for coverage between the two networks, with the current agreement running until the 2014 tournament.
In addition, when matches involved Scotland or Northern Ireland (Wales having never qualified) the BBC or ITV franchise holder in that area (Scottish TV, Grampian, Border or Ulster / UTV) would provide their own commentary team and presenters for those games.
In the 2006 World Cup, ITV showed two of England's three group games, with the BBC showing one. However, the BBC would then have shown England through to the final, had they made it; this would have been on an exclusive basis for the round of 16 and the quarter finals (the latter being the round where England were actually eliminated), with coverage of the semi-final and final being shared with ITV. The same method was used for the 2010 World Cup, where ITV showed the first two England games, and the BBC would have shown the next two, with England's semi final shared on both channels and the Final as well, but with England eliminated in the second round, the BBC instead had the first choice of the two quarter finals, and ITV the choice of a semi final and the third place match, with both channels showing the Final.
For the 2014 World Cup the BBC showed England's first match against Italy with ITV showing the other 2 matches against Uruguay and Costa Rica. BBC had first choice for the 2nd round while ITV had first choice quarter final so if England got to the Quarters, which they didn't, the match would have been exclusively live on ITV.
For the 2018 World Cup the BBC showed England's first 2 games against Tunisia and Panama respectively with ITV showing the one remaining group stage match against Belgium. The BBC carried the quarterfinal with Sweden. ITV aired the semi-final against Croatia and the third-place play-off with Belgium.
ITV have had several sponsors over the years. For the 1990 World Cup, in one of the first sponsorship deals in British TV history, coverage was sponsored by National Power. Coverage of the 1994 World Cup was sponsored by electronics company Panasonic, whilst car company Vauxhall sponsored the 1998 World Cup. This was the first year actual idents were shown, as opposed to just the company logo, and featured comical exchanges between players dubbed over in suitable accents. Travelex sponsored their coverage of the 2002 World Cup, and would also go on to sponsor their coverage of the 2003 Rugby World Cup. For the 2006 World Cup, there were two sponsors for the first time - Budweiser and EDF Energy. The latter would, like Travelex, go on to sponsor the 2007 Rugby World Cup along with Peugeot. In 2010, Hyundai and Lucozade Sport were the sponsors, with Hyundai having a Car World Cup tournament, which was eventually won by Spain. The former's stings were narrated by Peter Brackley. The 2014 World Cup had three sponsors for the first time, Sony, Carling and Santander. Carling would have a brief spell of sponsoring England matches on ITV, replacing Continental Tyres before being replaced by Screwfix. 2018 also had three, with Budweiser, adopting their international campaign, Volkswagen, with a series of idents about a confident man getting 'England Champions 2018' tattooed onto him, and Screwfix, sponsors of England's Qualifiers and Friendlies, with puns on famous England players performed by customers.
1986 marked the first time that the World Cup had extensive live cable and network television coverage in the United States. ESPN carried most of the weekday matches while NBC did weekend games. To be more specific, NBC aired seven matches, including the "Hand of God" quarterfinal, with broadcasters on-site. NBC's theme music for their 1986 coverage was Herb Alpert's "1980", from his 1979 album Rise. It was originally a cue meant for the ill-fated 1980 Moscow Summer Olympicsbroadcasts. Meanwhile, ESPN aired about 25 matches that year, all with broadcasters in studio.
In 1990, the World Cup was covered exclusively by cable television on TNT in the United States and had many features about the host country, Italy.
The 1994 American coverage had many firsts: The first with all of the matches televised, the first with no commercial interruptions during live action, and the first to feature an on-screen score & time box.
In 1998, all of the matches were televised in the United States live for the first time.
The 2002 American coverage was had 59 matches live, and 5 rebroadcasts on ABC, with coverage from Japan and South Korea carried live in the American late night graveyard slot.
Dave O'Brien joined Marcelo Balboa on the primary broadcast team for the 2006 FIFA World Cup coverage on ESPN and ABC Sports, despite having no experience calling soccer matches prior to that year. Because The Walt Disney Company, owner of both television outlets, retained control over on-air talent, the appointment of O'Brien as the main play-by-play voice was made over the objections of Soccer United Marketing, who wanted JP Dellacamera to continue in that role. Disney stated that their broadcast strategy was intended, in voice and style, to target the vast majority of Americans who do not follow the sport on a regular basis. Mispronunciation and incorrect addressing of names, misuse of soccer terminology, and lack of insight into tactics and history plagued the telecasts, resulting in heavy criticism from English-speaking soccer fans, many of whom ended up watching the games on Univision instead.
From 2002 to 2010, José Luis Chilavert joined Pablo Ramirez and Jesus Bracamontes on the booth during the Univision broadcast of the FIFA World Cup Final match.
Starting in 2018, coverage will be available on connected TVs, mobile devices and tablets via NBC Sports and Telemundo Deportes' En Vivo apps respectively, and on home devices and video game consoles such as the Xbox One, PS4, and Roku via the Fox Sports app and Fox Sports Go.