SBJ/June 2-8, 2014/In Depth

Nets hope to keep focused on field of play

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In the run-up to the World Cup, much of the news out of Brazil has had little to do with the upcoming games. Press reports have been filled with protests and construction problems. Brazil’s government has been accused of shipping undesirable elements away from some of the host cities.

The World Cup’s two U.S. rights holders, ESPN and Univision, have covered these problems on their various news programs, but both networks say the outside stories will take a back seat to on-field action once the tournament starts.

“Our intention is to see what develops,” said Vince Doria, ESPN’s senior vice president and director of news. “These stories already have been done. Our intention is not to cover these things unless news merits it.”

Protests have garnered much of the attention in the build-up to the event.
Photo by: Getty Images
Univision executives have a similar plan. The station plans to cover the games as a celebration of sport, but if off-field news breaks out, the Spanish broadcaster will have reporters on site to cover it.

“The three main verticals of our network will be there,” said Alberto Ciurana, Univision Networks’ president of programming and content. “We have sports, news and entertainment. News will be taking care of that.”

The World Cup is big business for U.S. TV networks. ESPN and Univision are paying a combined $425 million for the rights to carry the 2010 and 2014 events, with ESPN paying $100 million and Univision paying $325 million.

This year will mark the last World Cup for both TV channels. Fox Sports bought the rights to the 2018 and 2022 tournaments for between $450 million and $500 million, and Telemundo paid $600 million for the Spanish language rights to the two tournaments.

Despite the amount of money being invested in the games, both networks say they will not be shy about covering stories that may cast a bad light on the World Cup.

ESPN is sending some of its top journalists to the country, with Doria highlighting reporters Bob Ley and Jeremy Schaap, producers Jim Witalka and Michael Baltierra, and news editors Sandy Rosenbush and Javier Perrone.
ESPN also will use Bob Woodruff and Paula Faris from ABC News as part of its team.

“We have a lot of resources down there to use if need be,” Doria said. “Clearly, our journalists will do work for the games, but if the landscape shifts, they are all comfortable moving into hard news.”

Univision is sending some of its most popular shows to the country to add to the coverage. It will produce its popular morning show “Despierta América” and its weekday entertainment show “El Gordo y La Flaca” to Brazil, where they plan to focus on lighter news on the culture and traditions of the country.

“We want to really bring to our audience the flavor of that beautiful country and the people of Brazil,” Ciurana said. “We’ll have special coverage, not from the sports point of view, but from the personal and entertaining part of the trip from Brazil.”

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