Univision Deportes’ Pitch Extends Across Many Futbol Fields

By J.P. Fields Univision Communications Archives

Carlos Deschapelles, Executive Vice President of Multimedia and Sports Sales at Univision, has seen soccer transform in the U.S. this decade.  While there has always been a core group of fanáticos, Deschapelles said the embrace of the beautiful game has broadened beyond Hispanics, who over-index in their passion for futbol.  “It’s amazing how much the market has changed,” he told me. “Now, you hear more and more people saying ‘Did you see that goal?’”

That growing interest has translated into more money from marketers.  Deschapelles (pictured below) said that since 2012, spending on soccer has more than doubled in the U.S., with Hispanic media netting three-quarters of that gain.  And rest assured Univision, which wields a futbol portfolio that is second to none, is picking up more than its fair share.

The company, which televises soccer on main broadcast network Univision, fellow broadcaster UniMas and dedicated sports cable service Univision Deportes Network, recently released findings from a custom research project it commissioned from Nielsen.  Findings from “Los Fanáticos: The Passion and Power of the Hispanic Sports Fan" center around increased sports watching by Hispanics and co-viewing trends, as well as Latinos’ affinity for ads that run in athletic programming and their attendant intent to purchase such products.

Univision’s roster is headed by Liga MX, Mexico’s top league and the most-watched soccer circuit in North America, with more than twice the audience of the U.K.’s Premier League, whose U.S. rights are held by NBC Sports.  The company also carries domestic circuit Major League Soccer, as well as the Mexican and U.S. national teams.  Deschapelles said these core properties will deliver strong advertising gains in 2017.

Kicking off July 7, Univision also holds multi-platform, Spanish-language rights to the Gold Cup, the biennial competition matching national teams from North (U.S.) and Central America (Mexico) and the Caribbean region (Fox Sports holds the English-language rights).  But it has been deals with UEFA, European’s governing body that have added both breadth and depth to Univision lineups.

Fulfilling part of a mandate to buttress its weekday programming roster, Univision Deportes President Juan Carlos Rodriguez in January 2016 scored a multiplatform, U.S. rights deal for Euro 2020 and qualifying matches ahead of that national tourney, plus qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup. The deal also extends to the UEFA Nations League and UEFA Nations League Final Four, new events involving the 54-country associations that provide new interest to what were formerly “friendlies.”

Then, at Univision’s 2017 Upfront presentation, Rodriguez told media buyers that starting with the 2018-19 campaign Univision Deportes has the rights to Europe’s top club completion, the UEFA Champions League, as well as the second-level UEFA Europa League.  With the Champions League acquisition, Rodriguez declared that Univision Deportes is “the undisputed home of soccer."

The demand from advertisers “has driven the strategy to acquire more soccer properties,” Deschapelles he added, noting, “We have the best portfolio in the soccer world.”

By and large, each of those properties is an ad sales ecosystem unto itself, carrying distinct category players, including key marketers in the auto, beer, telco and consumer electronic arenas.

With so many holdings, whose selling seasons span the Upfront and spill across the calendar, Deschapelles’ job is complex and fun.  “We have exclusive broadcast rights to so many amazing properties, each with their own set of sponsors and other companies looking to associate with them,” he said.  In looking to sell them all, he sometimes it feels like negotiations are akin to playing 3D chess.

The addition of Champions and Europa Leagues with their mid- and late-afternoon windows are good complements to its weekend and prime time soccer schedule.  Deschapelles believes the UEFA properties will open traditional daytime ad categories like packaged goods and retail.

As it does with other properties, Univision will put the Champions League through its “car wash” meaning the club competition will be surrounded by pre- and post-game programming, as well as segments on news, primetime and talk show fare.   It will also have a major presence on UDN, which reaches 53 million subscribers and is home to 150 live matches and simulcasts of matches on Univision and UniMas throughout the year.

Proffered hand in hand, demand for Champions and Europa Leagues “have been what we hoped for in the Upfront,” said Deschapelles, noting that it is premature to talk about deals as negotiations continue.

Given Univision’s strength with Mexican-American audiences and its audience leadership overall, Liga MX generates “huge demand” through annual deals negotiated during the Upfront. Deschapelles noted that Univision’s position will be even stronger as it has gained the rights to four more clubs and will now present matches from 17 of the circuit’s 18 clubs.  (Telemundo holds the rights to C.F. Pachuca.)

The season is divided into Apertura and Clausura sections giving clubs two chances to make playoffs and wear a crown.  Deschapelles reported that three-quarters of the sponsors hold positions in both.

Univision is also pitching a property it doesn’t hold match rights to: The 2018 FIFA World Cup from Russia that will air on various Telemundo outlets.  With an unfavorable schedule, many matches will kick off at 7 a.m. (ET) 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., when soccer fans are heading to or at work.  Univision’s plan to be the “game around the game” includes offering World Cup-related fare against the halftime segments on its rival’s schedule; a two-hour, nightly recap show on UniMas, and extensive analysis on UDN.

Deschapelles said the “compelling package has drawn the interest we’ve expected during the Upfront.”

Photo at top: Alan Pulidos of Liga MX club Chivas.  Courtesy of Univision Deportes.

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