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Univision Deportes Sets Game Plan

Tuesday night might have been all about the second presidential debate, but over at Univision Deportes it was fútbol as usual.

Univision Deportes Network, the recently launched sports cable net, hosted a group of advertisers Tuesday afternoon for an all-sports panel that was followed by a live viewing party — not of the much-anticipated presidential debate, but of two key World Cup qualifier soccer matches: United States vs. Guatemala, followed by Mexico vs. El Salvador.

The event, held at The Ainsworth in New York, was hosted by Univision sportscaster Fernando Fiore, who introduced a panel discussion moderated by SportsBusiness Journal’s Chris Botta.

Joining Botta were Reinaldo Padua, assistant VP of Hispanic marketing at Coca-Cola; Manolo Zubiria, director of marketing and TV at CONCACAF, the soccer federation that governs North and Central America and the Caribbean; soccer player Cobi Jones; and Univision presenter Felix Fernandez.

Panelists keyed in on the next World Cup -- Brazil 2014 -- which has a special significance for Telemundo, as it will be the network’s last go-round with the tournament for a while.

Archrival Telemundo secured Spanish-language U.S. World Cup rights from 2015 through 2022. The NBCUniversal unit paid a reported $600 million. 

Asked about how Univision will go about selling the World Cup as a lame duck, Carlos Deschapelles, senior VP of Univision Sports Sales, said: “We will continue to sell the road to FIFA, and we will continue to make the most out of our soccer properties.”

Asked if Univision would increase its ad rates for Brazil 2014 to make the most out of its last FIFA World Cup in a while, Deschappelles said: “No, not at all,” joking, “I think Telemundo should push up its prices to make up for the [money spent on] FIFA rights!”

As for Univision Deportes Network, its properties include coverage of 12 of the 18 teams within the Mexican League and Mexican national team, as well as Major League Soccer, the U.S. National Team and the CONCACAF Champions League. Earlier this month, though, Univision’s sports department laid off several employees, many of them charged with production.

“I don’t know about these layoffs,” Univision Sports president Juan Carlos Rodriguez said on Tuesday night. Rodriguez, a former executive with Mexican TV network Televisa, took over Univision Deportes three months ago.

The event quickly turned from a panel discussion to a full-fledged party, where Univision’s on-air talent mingled with media buyers, advertising creatives and network executives surrounded by dozens of TV screens showing the U.S. versus Guatemala match from Kansas City.

The Ainsworth was converted into the typical soccer party, with Mexican, U.S., Guatemalan and Salvadoran flags; colorful drinks; vuvuzelas; an open bar; and plenty of food to last through two two-hour matches.

Later in the night, hosts said, the dozens of screens showing soccer would give way to two other significant going-ons: the second U.S. presidential debate from Long Island and New York Yankees-Detroit Tigers American League Championship Series game.