ESPN Deportes Hits the Road

ESPN Deportes has found an innovative way to engage its current viewers and, hopefully, sign on new ones: Taking its top TV and radio shows on the road.

Leading the charge are two of the network's most popular shows, Fútbol Picante and Jorge Ramos y su Banda, which have embarked on a three-market tour with live presentations in Los Angeles (March 7,) Dallas (April 5) and Chicago (May 2.) The Los Angeles event gathered up to 1,500 fans at the city's Plaza México, who attended to meet and greet some of their favorite soccer commentators.

The idea, explains ESPN Deportes marketing director Maribel Viteri, is simple: to have legendary sportscasters such as José Ramón Fernández, David Faitelson, Rafa Puente and Jorge Ramos interact with the fans who watch and hear them everyday on TV and radio.

In addition to the live broadcasts, ESPN Deportes is treating fans with the live viewing of some high-profile Mexican soccer matches on giant screens: Jaguares vs. Club Deportivo de Guadalajara (Los Angeles); Puebla vs. América (Dallas) and Cruz Azul vs. Indios de Ciudad Juarez in Chicago.)

Taking its top shows on the road, Viteri explained, was an idea born out of the Feb. 11 soccer match between Mexico and USA, which resulted in a significant ratings increase for shows such as Fútbol Picante, Cronómetro and Juego Cruzado. Although ESPN Deportes didn't have the Spanish-language rights (Univision did), ESPN did have the English-language rights, giving the network access to the stadium, where pregame and postgame shows were broadcast from, registering a 2.6 and 2.9 household ratings, respectively. "When we saw this, we realized [taking our commentators live] was a no-brainer," said Viteri.

All of the events surrounding the tour are followed online through a dedicated section in the ESPN Deportes Web site that includes behind-the-scenes footage, photo and video galleries and content from each stop.