Commuters will see news, results and score updates from ESPNFC’s team of global football experts in Brazil displayed in more than 140 stations across the London Underground network
Yes that's right, as well as telling you where the next trains are going, for the next five weeks electronic displays in tube stations are also going to tell you who just scored for Cameroon, and what the result was yesterday in the Switzerland v Ecuador game. I'm sure some people will be pleased.
I must say I'd never heard of ESPNFC before. That's probably because they're a long-standing American company, for whom 'football' doesn't usually mean soccer, and have only recently gone global. But I guess I have heard of them now, which is the whole point of their sponsorship. I may have heard too much about them by mid-July.
TfL's press release writers do love a spelt-out acronym (although apparently ESPNFC isn't one). The inclusion of ESUBs as well as DMIs brings confirmation that World Cup updates won't just be on platforms, they'll be front of house too. But with wi-fi being all over the Underground these days, it seems that ESPNFC's updates will be scrolling past in locations where anyone could have used their smartphone to check the football results if they were interested, which isn't quite so groundbreaking.
Platform level updates will only be available at around half of Underground stations, and this is because some tube lines have better DMIs than others. Indeed at many stations on many of the other lines the Next Train Indicators aren't even capable of telling you where the next train's going, so it would be taking the piss if they were suddenly able to announce that a man 6000 miles away had pulled his hamstring.
That's 33 days that TfL's electronic displays will be telling us the football results rather than whatever they'd normally be showing on the bottom line. ESPNFC have apparently paid £100000 for the privilege of their sponsorship, which works out at about £3000 per day, or £21 per station per day, or £5.60 per electronic indicator per day.
The travelling public will no doubt be especially interested in live updates on England's football matches, but these will probably take up no more than six hours of the next five weeks. Sorry to anyone hoping to watch a recording of any match at home later without discovering the result, because TfL will be delivering whopping spoilers for every match in the tournament. But it'll only be the equivalent of watching football on Ceefax... an occasional update of names and numbers, so don't expect excitement.
Do we really need recaps throughout the day, when it's nothing but repeats and speculation? I know a number of people who sit near me at work would say yes - they could prattle on and on about goal scorers and injury worries all day. But they're also exactly the kind of people who'd already know the result of the Iran Nigeria game, so wouldn't need to "discover" it on their morning commute as if it were some ESPNFC-dispensed secret.
Note the brandspeak there in the word "ambassador", which really means that John has been paid lots of money to tell people how good ESPNFC is. John then goes on to tell people how good ESPNFC is. And sorry John, but I'd very much like to disagree with your last comment, because I can assure you that not everyone thinks this use of technology is a good one.
It's not something you can ever imagine TfL saying before, "we must keep our passengers up to date on the football." But this time there's money in it, as Mike says, all of which can be invested in improving the network. Just not very much money. £100,000 is only enough to buy one tenth of a new S Stock carriage, or a mere 28% of a Routemaster bus. £100,000 would also be too small to pay the salaries of 366 of TfL and Crossrail's executives, because they earn more than that. £100,000 is less than what you'd get if every Londoner threw a 2p coin into a bucket. £100,000 is essentially a drop in the ocean, but for that we get advertising where none has been before.
Look at the huge difference between the £100,000 ESPNFC have stumped up and the £3.5bn TfL needs to earn from commercial activity in the future. This World Cup sponsorship contributes a mere 0.003% of what's needed to make up the balance from government funding cuts. It's also an early skirmish in the battle to monetise London's transport network, a mission which is about to become increasingly intrusive. And sure there have always been adverts on the tube, and our fares would be rather higher without them. But ESPNFC's success in feeding sponsored advertorial through a public information feed is a first, and I fear the very thin end of a very large wedge.