World Cup poses a challenge for studios

Fri Jun 11, 2010 3:19am EDT
 
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By Stuart Kemp and Scott Roxborough

LONDON (Hollywood Reporter) - The greatest show on turf, the World Cup soccer tournament, kicks off Friday in South Africa for a month of sporting highs and lows.

And for recession-dazed Europeans, the event is a welcome dose of free entertainment as government austerity measures sweep across the continent.

The organizers earn more than $3.4 billion from rights fees and sponsorships, while the billions of viewers will boost networks' advertising revenues.

Commercial channel ITV, which is sharing World Cup rights in Britain with the BBC, is forecasting a 25% rise in advertising revenue thanks to the tournament -- more if England's squad does well. The 25% revenue hike could amount to a $100 million windfall.

While small-screen providers are caught up in World Cup fever, the U.S. studios view the event as a monthlong headache. The first two weeks of the tournament are the worst, since there will be matches at lunchtime, the afternoon and in primetime across Europe.

"It's a massive distraction, and if the country in question is playing, the business (in theaters) drops like a stone," said Duncan Clark, Universal Pictures International's executive vp distribution. "Counterprogramming is something we've done in the past because there are four or five other days between the games played. So you can do good business on those days if you're prepared to accept a couple of down days."

Female- and family-focused pictures are in favor as a Cup alternative.

Disney opens the Kristen Bell romantic comedy "When in Rome" in Italy, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands in the first week of the tournament. (The picture earned just $33 million in North America after opening in January.)   Continued...

 
<p>Soccer fans cheer while awaiting the start of the opening ceremony of the 2010 World Cup at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg June 11, 2010. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko</p>