Univision Deportes Network To Televise World Cup 24/7

Univision Deportes Network is going to become the de facto World Cup channel.

The 40 million subscriber service -- which has deals with nine of the top 10 U.S. distributors, sans Comcast, and won the Nielsen ratings race among Spanish-language sports channels during the first quarter -- figures to net top audience levels again among that group in Q2 via its extensive coverage of FIFA’s famed futbol tourney from Brazil.

Although Univision Communications has not yet detailed its telecast schedule from Brazil 2014, Juan Carlos Rodriguez, president of Univision Deportes Network, in a recent interview, revealed that UDN will turn its lineup exclusively to the quadrennial in the form of previews, the matches themselves and post-pitch analysis in June and July.

“UDN will go 24/7 with the World Cup,” said Rodriguez, noting there will be live simulcasts of matches appearing on Univision and UniMas, as well as full-match replays and cut-downs of the games.

Rodriguez said Univision’s overall game plan is to be The Economist of soccer: “We’re going to tell you why things are going to happen. And if things don’t turn out that way, we’ll explain why we missed them.”

He added that “we realize that everybody can’t fly to Brazil, but we want to make sure that everybody watching feels like there.”

Shoulder programming aside, Univision will deploy 32 cameras for its match coverage, up from the dozen it typically uses for its presentations of the most-viewed futbol circuit in the U.S., LigaMX.

Digitally, users will also be able to keep pace with the World Cup and other soccer action via its recently introduced app, powered by streaming leader NeuLion.

Univision Deportes will make the first 56 World Cup matches and related content, plus other soccer fare available to any user, before serving up the money end of the tournament to authenticated Univision video subscribers. Rodriguez said the U.S. Spanish-language media leader would promote its TV Everywhere initiative during its tourney coverage, encouraging user sign-in. The final eight WC matches will be available digitally only to verified subscribers.

The new ad-supported app, which kicked off late last month and trades on NeuLion's Sports Platform, proffers interactive access to high-quality, live streaming coverage of games with in-match, virtual real-time highlights and stats, video highlights, schedules, individual club news, rosters and more. The app, playing on computers, smartphones and tablets, can be personalized to fans’ favorite  teams and preferred views of the soccer world; it can be downloaded across both iTunes and Android platforms.

As the countdown to the FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014 continues, fans will be able to follow the action using the hashtag #UDMundial across social platforms on Twitter via @UnivisionSports, as well as comment and follow all related content Facebook.com/UnivisionDeportes and Instagram/UnivisionDeportes.

Among the features demonstrated by Univision senior vice president of products Scott Levine and NeuLion executive vice president Chris Wagner were near real-time highlight clips that become available within a couple of minutes of the action, and post-match reels that present a truncated version of the best and brightest that occurred during the contest.

As to the World Cup set-up in Brazil, Univision will soon ship its pre-fabricated sets from Colombia to Brazil, while its pre-wired production, editing and control facilities will migrate from Long Beach, Calif. to the host nation next month. An additional 100 Univision executives will decamp to Brazil, beginning on June 1.

With soccer’s continued ascendancy and a more favorable time differential from South America to the States than during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Rodriguez is anticipating a 20% rise in ratings with the 2014 event. All told, Univision netted its highest audience levels ever for any World Cup in 2010 averaging 2.4 million total viewers, 1.4 million persons 18 to 49, 760,983 people 18 to 34 and 932,920 persons to 12 to 34, which represented gains of 15%, 6%, 9%, and 7%, respectively, over the 64-game averages for the 2006 competition from Germany. The 2010 coverage was topped by the 8.8 million average viewers for Spain's win over The Netherlands in the final, the most-watched WC championship game in Univision history and the third-largest Spanish-language telecast in U.S. ever, behind the 9.41 million watchers for the round-of-16 game between Mexico-Argentina on June 27, 2010 and the finale of novella Destilando Amor (Essence of Love), which drew 9.02 million on Dec. 3, 2007.

Although he wouldn’t specify a volume figure, Rodriguez is very happy with the company’s position on the advertising front on what will be the programmer’s final World Cup until at least 2023. (Telemundo and Fox outbid Univision and ESPN for rights to the FIFA fare from 2015 through 2022.)

“The sales staff has been out for more than a year and secured many commitments,” he said. “[Brazil] will be the most successful World Cup for Univision from a sales perspective.”

Rodriguez concluded by saying that Univision has three game plans in place, depending on what could happen in Brazil, where there are threats of widespread demonstrations, as citizens are expected to protest, among other things, the nation’s great economic disparity, while the rest of the globe centers its focus on the World Cup.

“Plan A is where everything goes smoothly in Brazil,” he said, adding that Univision will marshall all of the resources from its entertainment, news and sports divisions under Plan B to present an accurate account of what’s taking place if things get somewhat out of hand on the ground. Conversely if things became too dangerous, Plan C calls for Univision to broadcast the tournament from Miami.

Whatever the case, Rodriguez expressed confidence: “We’re ready.”