Telemundo plans to air 500 hours of World Cup programming next year on its broadcast and cable networks.
Owned by Comcast’s NBCUniversal division, the 2018 tournament from Russia, will be Telemundo’s first World Cup. Telemundo tackled the rights away from long-time Spanish-language leader Univision at time when the two networks are running neck and neck in the ratings race.
Telemundo will air 56 games on broadcast and eight on its Universo cable channel. Telemundo also plans 1,000 hours of content across digital and social platforms. Plans are in the works to use virtual reality and augmented reality as part of the presentation.
Telemundo will also have a daily 7 p.m. ET World Cup show to bridge the gap between sports and the network’s primetime lineup.
The World Cup took a hit last month when the U.S. team failed to qualify for the first time in decades. The lack of a U.S. squad is likely to reduce ad revenues for Fox, which has the U.S. rights to the tournament. Fox has also cut back on its production plans and the number of games on broadcast.
Ray Warren, president of Telemundo Deportes, said there will be no cutbacks at Telemundo because of the U.S. team’s absence.
“We’re not doing anything but spend what we planned to spend,” Warren said. “It’s unfortunate, but we’re going to serve our fans because it’s the World Cup.”
He said that with new digital platforms, Jim Bell, an NBC Olympic veteran who will also be execuite producer of the World Cup, said he expected the tournament to be “the most consumed event in Spanish language history.”
Warren also said the lack of a U.S. presence wasn’t hurting ad sales. He said NBCU’s ad sales department is not seeing an impact and that its ratings expectations have been reduced only by a couple of percentage points. Advertising inventory is already 50% sold out.
“There are 10 Hispanic teams playing, so there’s plenty for everybody,” he said.
Telemundo plans to use the World Cup as an opportunity to cement its new position as a serious alternative to Univision among Spanish-speaking American.
We’re want create a cultural movement and a mind shift to Telemundo,” Warren said.
With the U.S. out, there might actually be more opportunities for Telemundo to capture bilingual soccer fans, he said. Bilingual viewers represent two-thirds of the Hispanic population.
Telemundo will be airing the World Cup after NBCU airs the NFL’s Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics from South Korea, which would mark an unprecedented concentration of big event sports for a single company.
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