Hispanic media buyers and Mexican soccer fans across the U.S. noticed that something was missing last weekend: Mexican league soccer on Univision.
A fixture for decades on the Spanish-language media giant -- ever since Univision and Mexican partner Grupo Televisa have been in business together -- matches went missing on Jan. 16 and Jan. 17
According to sources close to both companies, the reason why Univision viewers were left soccer-less last weekend -- and some marketers didn't see their spots on the air -- stemmed from a lapse in the futbol accord that Univision and Grupo Televisa inked early last year.
Univision and Televisa in January 2009 reached an agreement to amend their programming license agreement for entertainment fare, with their litigation ultimately dismissed by a Los Angeles Federal Court. At the same time, but under a separate deal, Televisa agreed to license to Univision the home games for the three Televisa-owned
teams -- America, Necaxa and San Luis -- for 2009, though no extension was reached for subsequent years.
Neither Univision or Televisa has said publicly if the partners were still haggling over the soccer agreement. A Univision spokeswoman declined to comment, while an attorney from Grupo Televisa didn't return calls by press time.
However, on the afternoon of Jan. 20, Grupo Televisa CEO Emilio Azcárraga-Jean sent a Twitter message to his followers simply saying: "To people in the U.S: Mexican soccer on Univision will be back next weekend."
Univision didn't return a subsequent phone call seeking comment by press time.
Although it's not yet clear what happened exactly with Univision last week, there is no doubt that both Azteca America and Telemundo have made important strides in offering U.S. Hispanic viewers more -- and better -- soccer matches.
Telemundo, for example, has steadily increased its coverage of Mexican soccer. In November, the NBC Universal-owned broadcaster secured an extension of its rights deal to broadcast all of the home matches of six premiere clubs in Mexico's top soccer circuit, effectively becoming the largest broadcaster of Mexican league soccer matches in the U.S.
Telemundo, which originally secured the rights in 2008, renewed the deal for the 2010 season, covering over 100 home matches to these top sides in Mexico's First Division Soccer League. The deal, terms of which were not disclosed, also covers potential playoffs, semifinals and finals matches involving Atlas, Toluca, Monterrey (Rayados), Tigres, UNAM (Pumas) and Atlante.
Telemundo, which also holds the U.S. TV rights to the men's Mexican national team until the 2010 FIFA World Cup, has also strengthened ties with Grupo Televisa in Mexico.
Azteca America also has some rights to Mexico's First Division action, including access to the popular Cruz Azul team, as well as the Mexico Soccer League and some Mexican international contests.
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