SBJ/Sept. 4-10, 2017/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Spanish-language ‘MNF’ coming to ESPN2

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Are you ready for some fútbol americano?

That’s a question ESPN will ask this fall, as it will simulcast “Monday Night Football” in Spanish on ESPN2 for the first nine weeks of the NFL season. The network will use the ESPN Deportes feed for its first 10 games, starting with its opening doubleheader Sept. 11 and running through Nov. 6.

ESPN2 has carried Spanish-language simulcasts before, most notably the World Baseball Classic Final in March and Real Madrid-FC Barcelona soccer game in July. This marks the first time ESPN2 has decided to simulcast a series of games in Spanish. Last NFL season, ESPN2 ran a hodgepodge of programming opposite “Monday Night Football,” including poker and “30 for 30” repeats.

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“Appealing to an Hispanic audience is a priority for us,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN’s executive vice president of programming and scheduling. “Obviously, it’s also a priority for the NFL in terms of growing their fan base and tracking on the changing demographics of the country.”

The move to ESPN2 will give “Monday Night Football’’ more reach. ESPN2 is in 88 million homes, according to the most recent numbers from Nielsen. ESPN Deportes is not Nielsen rated. It is available in about 5.9 million Hispanic households.

ESPN Deportes still will carry the game, which will feature Álvaro Martín on play-by-play, Raúl Allegre as an analyst and John Sutcliffe as sideline reporter. This will be the 10th year that Michael Leonard has produced “Monday Night Football” for ESPN Deportes. In Weeks 2-9, ESPN will simulcast Deportes from 8 p.m. to midnight ET, which will include the pregame show “Esta Noche” and the ESPN Deportes “SportsCenter” from Mexico City afterward.

So far, ESPN2’s Spanish-language simulcasts have brought steady but not spectacular viewership. ESPN2’s Spanish-language simulcast of the U.S.-Puerto Rico World Baseball Classic Final averaged 397,000 viewers in March, which was higher than ESPN2’s prime-time average for the month (359,000). The Spanish-language simulcast of the International Champions Cup soccer match between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona averaged 197,000 viewers in July, which was lower than ESPN2’s prime-time average for the month (248,000).

“I don’t know that we’ve set specific audience expectations at this point for ‘Monday Night Football,’” Magnus said. “If it works, we would look to do more and endeavor to try and get the full season cleared next year.”

ESPN’s college basketball commitments kept the network from simulcasting the entire “Monday Night Football” schedule this season.

“This was done with the full partnership, cooperation and enthusiasm of the NFL as they look to attract Hispanic sports fans and grow that part of their fan base,” Magnus said. “We’re curious to see how the sport with the broadest overall appeal, in the NFL, does in this regard.”


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