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Despite fall of U.S., Telemundo bullish on Cup

Despite fall of U.S., Telemundo bullish on Cup

By Ian Thomas, Staff Writer

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Like the U.S. men’s soccer team, Argentina was in danger of missing the World Cup. But while the U.S. team wilted in Trinidad and Tobago, Lionel Messi delivered a hat trick in the final qualifier to clinch a spot in soccer’s biggest event, bringing joy to Argentines and Ray Warren, Telemundo Deportes president. “It was nerve-wracking. It could have been our version of the U.S. team,” he said.

While it is unclear how Fox’s ratings and revenue will fare with no U.S. team in the World Cup, Telemundo is poised to take full advantage of the event, which it’s forecasting to be the most-consumed Spanish-language event in U.S. history. “I’ve learned in a very short period of time that there is no limit to the amount of World Cup coverage people are willing to watch,” said Warren, who was named to the position in September 2016. “We don’t have a place to put the bar; we’ve set it that high.”

Telemundo, which is owned by NBCUniversal, in 2011 won the U.S. Spanish-language rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups for $600 million, nearly double what Univision paid for 2010 and 2014. Univision had aired the event since 1990. Fox paid $400 million for the English-language rights to the two events.

Argentina’s close call in World Cup qualifying “was nerve-wracking. It could have been our version of the U.S. team.”
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The 2014 World Cup on Univision Deportes reached nearly 81 million total viewers, up 34 percent from its coverage in 2010.

Warren declined to share specific revenue projections for the event, but said that “it’ll be better than what we initially thought” based on the network’s rise since 2011. In 2011-12, rival Univision nearly tripled Telemundo’s 18-49 viewership in weeknight prime time; now Telemundo has a slight lead.

Lauren Molen, executive vice president of advertising sales for Telemundo Enterprises and the Lifestyle Group at NBCUniversal, declined to comment on the progress of the network’s World Cup advertising deals, noting that discussions are ongoing.

Because of the time-zone differences with the World Cup games in Russia, some games will begin as early as 5 a.m. ET and the latest will kick off at 1 p.m. That will drive many viewers to Telemundo’s streaming products while raising its morning viewership, Warren said, but will also allow the network the opportunity to re-air games in the evening in prime time for those who missed them live.

David Downs, president of Univision Sports from 2001 to 2009, said that while having the U.S. team not participating will ding ratings — he noted that U.S. matches outperform the average even in Spanish — it is unclear how deeply the time-zone change from Brazil, site of the 2014 World Cup, to Russia will affect viewers. Hispanic viewers traditionally make up a larger portion of the viewership in the Mountain and Pacific time zones, Downs said, so the early Russian start times, even earlier toward the West Coast, might lead to lower live audiences. However, he said, prime-time replays might find a larger audience as a result.

Downs said Telemundo will still be at the mercy of just how well the teams that its viewers want to see — Mexico, Argentina and Brazil, for example — do in the World Cup, not unlike Fox.

“Your success with a World Cup is really your ability to generate large ratings for the non-home team games, whether you’re an English-language network or a Spanish-language one,” he said.


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