Gol Nets Trio Of World Cup Qualifier Deals

Gearing up for its upfront presentation to advertisers, Gol TV has buttressed its futbol roster with deals for 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches for three top European sides.

The soccer-centric service has netted deals for qualifying games involving the Italian, Spanish and German national teams, the third-, fourth- and fifth-ranked teams in the world, during 2008 and 2009, leading up to the World Cup in South Africa, according to GolTV founder and CEO Enzo Francescoli.

Gol, which also offers both English- and Spanish-language audio feeds, also gained rights to March 26 “friendly” between Argentina and Egypt, the African Cup winner. Argentina is currently the top-ranked national team by FIFA, the sport’s international governing body.

The deal with Germany, terms of which were not disclosed, gives Gol TV, which counts some 16 million English- and Spanish-language subs, exclusive U.S. and Canadian rights for five World Cup qualifiers, starting in September. Gol has rights to matches pitting Germany, which has won the World Cup three times, against Russia, Wales, Lichenstein, Azerbaijan and Finland. The pact also provides for six so-called friendlies, including a contest with rival England in Berlin Nov. 19.

Gol TV already has strong ties to Germany: The network has U.S. TV rights to the nation’s top league, the Bundesliga, through 2009

Although he declined to provide specifics, Francescoli -- the Uruguayan national known as “The Prince,” who led his nation to World Cup appearances in 1986 and 1990 -- said the deals for the Spanish and Italian national teams are similar, encompassing “six to eight World Cup qualifiers, plus friendlies.”

Italy is the defending World Cup champion, toppling France in the final of the 2006 tournament from Germany. Gol TV previously aired Series A action, Italy’s top league, but those rights were secured by Fox Soccer Channel. However, last fall Gol grabbed rights to the Coppa Italia tourney.

Gol TV is also entrenched in Spain, presenting matches from La Liga -- which, along with the Barclays English Premier League, is arguably the top soccer circuit on the planet --  in the U.S. COO Rodrigo Lombello said that the network, which became rated by Nielsen Hispanic TV Index last October, said La Liga matches have been the top show in Hispanic households on weekends, and rank among the top 10 on a weekly basis.  

All told, Gol TV airs more than 1,000 matches annually from the aforementioned leagues, plus South American and Central American circuits, and other World Cup qualifiers involving teams from Latin America.

Now in 16 million homes, including 3.2 Latino households, Gol TV anticipates adding at least another 2 million this year, with continued rollouts from existing deals, said Lombello. He explained that a number of carriers, including Comcast, Cox, Cablevision, DirecTV and Dish Network, offer the network in both languages, depending on whether it is positioned on a sports or Hispanic tier.

Lombello said that Time Warner Cable remains the sole major holdout from its distribution roster (it does have some Time Warner Cable subs in Los Angeles, inherited when the operator and Comcast Corp. purchased Adelphia Communications in 2006). He is confident, though, that Gol TV will score a deal with the nation’s third-largest distributor over “the next few months.”  

In the meantime, Gol TV is preparing for its May 14 upfront advertising presentation in New York. Last year, Lombello said Gol TV added All State, Dodge and Jeep during the upfront. The network, which also counts Verizon and the U.S. Navy, as major accounts, saw a 30% increase in ad sales in 2007.

In addition to the World Cup qualifier additions, Gol TV will inform clients that it is working on a documentary series, King of Clubs, which will examine the roots, history and results from such legendary teams as Manchester United, Liverpool, AC Milan, Inter Milan, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, among others.