In light of the announcement by Turner Sports where 80% of Champions League and Europa League games won’t be available on television beginning with the 2018/19 season, Univision Deportes is poised to attract English-language soccer fans who will watch games in Spanish to avoid having to pay the subscription fee to access Turner’s paid streaming service.
As the Spanish-language network has shown in its coverage of the World Cup, Liga MX and MLS, they are able to utilize multiple channels and social media platforms to increase the availability and accessibility for matches. Most importantly, Univision has also been able to garner a lot of English-speaking soccer fans who have gravitated to their coverage even when games are available in English.
While Turner Sports hasn’t made any decisions regarding who they will hire as commentators, analysts or presenters, we do know that Univision Deportes has a long history of understanding the passion and culture of soccer fans in the United States, no matter what language they speak.
“Soccer is the lifeblood of our community and we plan to serve our soccer fans in a way that allows for them to bring that passion to life on all platforms,” said a spokeswoman for Univision Deportes. “We have more soccer rights than any other U.S. media company along with the best teams in the world on the best multi platforms – all of which make UCI the undisputed home of soccer.”
Considering that none of the Europa League games will be on television via Turner except for the final, if UEFA Europa League games are shown live on Univision Deportes network, this could significantly impact the bottom line for Turner Sports when it attempts to sell its OTT sports platform to soccer fans. This could prove to be a gateway for Univision’s networks, particularly Univision Deportes, to gain new viewers among English-language dominant soccer fans.
Given the emphasis Univision places on the sport of soccer and the types of personalities they have broadcasting the matches, the decision by Turner to place about half the UEFA Champions League matches and all but one of the matches in UEFA Europa League behind a paywall is a massive opportunity for the network.
Univision’s target audience has expanded to including English-language dominant individuals and the millennial bilingual audience. It’s that millennial audience that Turner plans on targeting with its efforts That could prove a boon to Univision who may find that the availability of their products including via streaming services such as fuboTV, DIRECTV NOW and Sling TV may give them a leg up on trying to compete for that audience that might prefer to watch matches in English but does understand Spanish.
The willingness of Univision at an early stage to provide its product to streaming services that focus on marketing to soccer fans has already worked as a mechanism to increase awareness among English-language oriented fans of what soccer products are available on Univision, UniMas and Univision Deportes. Through services like Sling TV, DIRECTV NOW and fuboTV, Univision has already opened a door to the audience that might represent a large segment of Turner’s target for UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League coverage.
Univision didn’t necessarily openly compete for English-language viewers when they acquired the rights to the Champions League and Europa League. But in the changing dynamic of the television and broadcast industry as well as the new demographic taking hold among millennials, it would be stunning if Univision didn’t make such a play. We’ve seen already with NBC Universal’s Telemundo brand that they’ve embarked on an ambitious effort to win over English-language speaking soccer fans to their coverage of the 2018 World Cup and Confederations Cup.
We remind our readers that while Univision hasn’t announced its plans yet, they will no doubt benefit from Turner’s decision to stick so many games behind a paywall. Just how much they benefit will remain to be seen. But they have an opportunity now to craft their coverage around the segment of the audience that Turner might be ignoring or abdicating. The opportunity that presents itself for Univision might very well be worth seizing as they continue to seek bilingual viewers.