World Cup ratings contest heats up

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World Cup ratings contest heats up

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From left: Korean commentators for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Announcer Jo U-jong and former football player Lee Yong-pyo of KBS; former player Song Chong-gug, announcer Kim Sung-joo and retired football player Ahn Jung-hwan of MBC; and current football player Cha Doo-ri, announcer Bae Sung-jae and Cha’s father and football legend Bum-kun. [NEWSIS, Ilgan Sports]

Although Korea’s national football team saw a dismal 4-2 loss to Algeria in its second match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup yesterday at 4 a.m., Korea time, in Porto Alegre, Brazil, the competition to win the highest viewership rating for the games among the three public broadcasting stations - KBS, MBC and SBS - continues.

As it is the first time in eight years for the three to broadcast the games live simultaneously (the 2010 games in South Africa were exclusively shown by SBS), the competition was fiercer than ever.

At first, it seemed like MBC’s coverage, which was fronted by a trio of fathers from its popular reality show “Dad! Where Are You Going?” - former football players Song Chong-gug and Ahn Jung-hwan and announcer Kim Sung-joo-? won viewers’ hearts when it outperformed others in the first few major games, including Japan versus Ivory Coast and Italy against England.

Viewers were enthused by the casual chitchats of the three, which sounded like another episode of the reality program. With the former defender and striker providing sharp remarks about the players’ conditions based on their past experiences, viewers could empathize more with the players on the field.

However, when Korea played its first 2014 World Cup match against Russia on Wednesday morning, viewers turned to KBS, which had former Tottenham Hotspur defender Lee Yong-pyo as its main commentator.

According to Nielsen Korea on Thursday, KBS topped the viewer ratings with 16.6 percent while MBC and SBS recorded 13.5 percent and 8.5 percent, respectively.

Experts point out that Lee’s ability to precisely predict the results of the games played a pivotal role in attracting the most viewers. He wowed the public when he nailed some of the unlikely results of the matches, including Spain’s big loss against the Netherlands and guessed that Korea’s game against Russia would end in a 1-1 tie.

SBS, which exclusively covered the South Africa World Cup in 2010, could not improve its lackluster viewership.

Although the channel’s speakers Cha Bum-kun and his football player son Cha Doo-ri received a positive response for their comprehensive delivery of the games, some non-soccer fans considered them too professional.

As shown in each and every unique strategy from the broadcasting stations, winning the No. 1 title for the World Cup certainly is crucial as it can dominate the image of the channel until the 2018 World Cup in Qatar.

However, one should always remember that an exaggerated competition could bring poisonous results.

“There ought to be bigger pressure about broadcasting the football games as it has been a long time since the three channels came head to head,” said an associate of one of the three broadcasting teams, who wanted to remain anonymous, to Ilgan Sports, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily.

“However excessive promotions and eagerness to win the No. 1 title do no good to anyone. Broadcasters should only deliver the necessary and precise facts.”

BY KIM YEON-JI, JIN EUN-SOO [estyle@joongang.co.kr]




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