ICYMI: The week on Front Row PLUS: Inside ESPN’s World Cup media preview

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NEW YORK — Yesterday, ESPN previewed its companywide plans for the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Brazil at The Paley Center for Media. In addition to the regular sports and media industry insiders who cover ESPN, the event included RSVPs from journalists representing 18 different countries. In all, more than 50 media members attended.

ESPN World Cup host Bob Ley hosted the event, which highlighted every major facet of the company’s planned World Cup efforts, including programming, marketing and production – both domestic and international (ESPN Brasil is also an official broadcaster in the host country). ESPN President John Skipper and Executive Vice President & Managing Director of ESPN International, Russell Wolff, were among the speakers.

Several members of ESPN’s World Cup commentator team — reporters Julie Foudy and Jeremy Schaap, analysts Alexi Lalas, Taylor Twellman, Alejandro Moreno and Shaka Hislop, and play-by-play voice Fernando Palomo — participated in a roundtable, which included a spirited discussion on whether the U.S. Men’s National Team will advance out of its “Group of Death” (Hint: Our experts are not optimistic.)

During the presentation, ESPN also introduced the newest member of its World Cup team – highly-respected ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff, who discussed with Ley how he will report from Brazil during the tournament for both ESPN and ABC. (Note: ABC News outlined its World Cup coverage plans yesterday.)

Overall, here is a rundown of announcements that were made:

Scott Guglielmino, Senior Vice President, Programming, outlined ESPN’s overall approach – including plans to stream live all 64 matches on WatchESPN and ESPN3. He also offered a sneak peak of Inside: U.S. Soccer’s March to Brazil the documentary series on the U.S. Men’s National Team (debuting May 13) co-produced by Jonathan Hock and Roger Bennett, who were both in attendance.

Seth Ader, Senior Director, Marketing, previewed ESPN’s newest World Cup promo spot “Global Issues,” which debuted yesterday at noon. He also unveiled eight (of the 32) World Cup national team posters that ESPN has created for the tournament.

• Senior Vice President/Executive Producer Jed Drake and coordinating producer Amy Rosenfeld offered a detailed production overview of what fans can expect from ESPN’s month-long coverage. They shared construction photos of ESPN’s Clube dos Marimbas broadcast facility in Rio de Janeiro, which will offer a picturesque backdrop of Copacabana Beach during the World Cup.

They also highlighted ESPN’s commentator team and officially named the reporters who will cover the tournament. The video pieces they presented included a fantastic teaser trailer featuring soccer highlights and elements of Brazilian cultural and scenic beauty. They closed with three video features written and narrated by ESPN.com senior writer Wright Thompson, who will be a major contributor to ESPN’s efforts this summer.

With just more than a month to go until the opening match in Brazil on June 12, ESPN’s World Cup coverage is just getting started. Look for Ley’s special report on Brazilian youth soccer development on Sunday’s Outside the Lines (9 a.m. ET) and much more in the coming weeks across the ESPN networks.

By Bill Hofheimer

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