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NBC Universo Gets Traction

Seven months into its launch, Spanish-language sports and entertainment channel NBC Universo is finding traction among operators looking for high-definition entertainment and sports for Latino audiences.

The network — rebranded in February from the younger-audience-focused mun2 — late last week reached HD carriage deals with Comcast’s Western Division systems in such markets as San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento, Calif.; Denver; Albuquerque, N.M.; Seattle; Portland, Ore.; Salt Lake City; Tucson, Ariz.; Minneapolis-St. Paul; and Houston, Rubén Mendiola, NBC Universo president, said.

Cox Communications and Bright House Networks have also signed on to carry NBCUniverso, now in more than 40 million households. The network ranks highly against a crowded field of widely distributed Spanish-language sports networks, according to Nielsen, including Univision Deportes (44 million), Fox Deportes (21 million) and BeIN Sports (18 million).

Latino viewers watch an average of more than 29 hours of traditional TV per week, second only to African-American viewers among ethnic groups, according to Nielsen. Hispanics also have the second-largest number of cable, satellite and telco subscriptions among ethnic groups. Mendiola said offering quality HD sports and entertainment programming will help keep that group in the pay-TV universe.

“Latinos are a really important constituency for cable, satellite and telco distributors,” Mendiola said. “Within the Spanish-language cable universe, there are very few channels available on HD. Nowadays, to give viewers the quality they want and deserve, I think that having the channel available on HD is paramount.”

It’s a key sports period for the network as Sunday (Sept. 13) saw the return of Spanish-language coverage of select National Football League Sunday Night Football games in partnership with NBC and as the network gears up for soccer events, including the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile, beginning in October.

Next year will see significant Spanish-language coverage of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero, an event Mendiola said he believes will help NBC Universo gain even more cable distribution.

The lineup also includes Spanish-language versions of such series as Battlestar Galactica and Law & Order, plus original shows launching in 2016 including Top Chef Mexico and its first scripted series, El Vato. Sports events deliver spikes in viewing, Mendiola said, but “what keeps the consistency in the ratings is the entertainment programming.”

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.