SBJ/20100607/This Week's News

Univision stresses soccer experience

About to embark on its ninth World Cup, Univision executives are hoping that U.S. viewers will value experience as they make their viewing decisions during this year’s tournament.

While ESPN is in the midst of a glitzy marketing campaign complete with promos featuring rock star Bono and the Soweto gospel choir, Univision is preparing more quietly for its coverage of the event.

In the fall of 2005, Univision paid $325 million for the U.S. Spanish-language rights to the 2010 and 2014 men’s World Cup and the 2007 and 2011 women’s World Cup. ESPN paid FIFA $100 million for the English-language rights to the same games.

“We certainly respect what ESPN will be doing for this World Cup,” said Alina Falcon, president of news for Univision Communications. “But what they’re doing for this World Cup, we’ve been doing for more than 20 years.”

Four years ago, more than 50 million viewers watched all or part of the tournament on Univision. The number that made its executives happiest was the makeup of the audience: 12 percent of its viewers were not Hispanic. “We expect that to be the same, if not bigger this year,” Falcon said.

Univision’s plans call for telecasting every game of this year’s World Cup in HD. When games run at the same time, Univision’s sister network, TeleFutura, will broadcast the overflow matches. TeleFutura and another sister network, Galavision, plan to rebroadcast the best matches of the day in prime time.

On the digital media side, Univision will make matches available on video-on-demand 24 hours after the conclusion. All matches will be streamed for free on univision.com, as well (see related story).

Univision and its family of networks are planning to produce more hours (900) from South Africa than it has in the past. It will have two sets in Johannesburg, one in the International Broadcast Center and one at a local tourist destination, Melrose Arch.

Each game will have at least a half-hour pregame show. For some games, the show will extend to an hour.

Univision is planning to broadcast several non-sports shows from its Johannesburg sets, including a daily morning show (“Despierta America”), a daily afternoon entertainment show (“El Gordo y La Flaca”) and its 6:30 and 11:30 p.m. newscasts.

“We’re the veterans and we are the experts at soccer and the World Cup. For millions of viewers every four years, we are the destination for the World Cup,” Falcon said. “We feel that this year will not be any different.”

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