ESPN Deportes Skirts Spanish With Portuguese Cup Coverage

If you’re wondering why many of your calls and e-mails haven’t been returned in the last week, you’re not alone.

The 2014 FIFA World Cup is in full swing, and it’s a safe bet thousands of Hispanic media and marketing professionals were “away from the office” from the afternoon of June 12 until … well, they could be very well preparing for the next big match right now.

World Cup craziness has gripped cities such as Miami, Los Angeles, Houston and Washington, D.C., and the TV ratings on Univision (as well as the radio ratings on Andres Cantor-announced Fútbol de Primera Radio broadcasts) are set to be record-shattering.

Even so, Univision isn’t the exclusive carrier of televised play-by-play of World Cup matches U.S. Hispanics may be tuning to.

We’re not talking about ABC or ESPN. Rather, we’re talking about ESPN Deportes.

For the second consecutive World Cup, the Spanish-language pay TV network will be swapping out Spanish for Portuguese in order to air all 64 matches live in the U.S. Specifically, about 54 matches will air on ESPN Deportes, while an additional 10 will be available online, via its ESPN Deportes Plus broadband channel.

The ability to air the games live in the U.S. is perfectly legal under FIFA rights agreements, as Portuguese and Spanish are distinct languages. Matches will be called by the ESPN Brasil team of veteran soccer commentators.

“ESPN has the ability to deliver the World Cup in several languages (except Spanish), and Portuguese makes the most sense for our brand,” Lino Garcia, general manager of ESPN Deportes, said via email from Brazil. ”It is a great opportunity to serve an ardent group of avid soccer fans in the U.S. Brazilian and Portuguese-speaking communities. By doing this, we are absolutely following through with our mission of serving fans. It also has significant cultural relevance this year given that is taking place in Brazil.”

Portuguese-language coverage on ESPN Deportes commenced with the June 12 opener featuring host nation Brazil versus Croatia. Brazil won the match 3-1, thanks to two questionable referee calls.

When the network isn’t falando em português, it’s airing a multitude of World Cup-related news and information programming — including at least three daily World Cup-centric editions of SportsCenter and onsite production of studio shows Fuera de Juego, Jorge Ramos y Su Banda, Cronómetro and Fútbol Picante. ESPN Deportes is also counting on reports from its global team of reporters stationed in Bristol, Conn.; Buenos Aires; Mexico City; Los Angeles; and Miami.

Meanwhile, Comcast has given its customers the opportunity to stream all World Cup matches, whether in English, Portuguese or Korean, from the ESPN family of networks. The games are accessible through both Comcast’s English-language and Spanish-language microsites and the Xfinity TV Go mobile app.

In related World Cup news, Comcast has transformed its Spanish-language Xfinity Latino Entertainment Channel (XLEC), a free offering available in more than 20 million subscriber homes, into a Cup hub highlighted by simulcasts of special Brazil 2014 programming from various Spanish-language sports networks. At 11 p.m. ET on June 12, the first day of the World Cup, beIN Sport was the featured network.

XLEC also features a unique crawl with sports news updates, results and standings.