When it comes to soccer coverage, the one word that’s synonymous with ESPN Deportes is authenticity. While the network doesn’t have as many soccer rights as some of its rivals, what it does have is expert analysis and commentary with an authentic feel. Much of that credit goes to the talent such as Mario Kempes, Fernando Palomo, Jorge Ramos and others, but it’s also pervasive throughout the entire organization whether they’re broadcasting Liga MX, Copa MX, Serie A, the Pan American Games or MLS.
Recently, Kartik Krishnaiyer and I had a chance to sit down with ESPN Deportes to learn more about the network’s soccer coverage, and what makes ESPN Deportes such a diverse network in the variety of programming it covers.
Speaking with former Mexico national team footballer Tato Noriega, he shared his opinion why many viewers prefer ESPN Deportes’ coverage. “You can’t fake passion,” said Tato. “We give honest opinions rather than lying or sitting on the fence.”
It helps that the honesty is coupled with expert analysis especially when you have a World Cup winner such as Mario Kempes who lifted the trophy in 1978 for Argentina. Combine that with Fernando Palomo and Tato, as well as several other soccer experts, and you have a winning formula.
Asked which league generates the most number of viewers for the network, ESPN Deportes Senior Director Oscar Ramos replied, “If you had to take an average, it would definitely be Liga MX. Right now, Serie A is obviously very important and there’s a lot of hype around it, but on average it’s absolutely Liga MX.”
With Liga MX viewing numbers doing so well for ESPN Deportes, and the Mexican league growing in popularity in the United States, I asked Ramos whether ESPN Deportes is also focusing on trying to win over the bilingual audience in the US that speaks both Spanish and English.
“The reality is that our network is primarily composed of folks that tend to be monolingual or Spanish dominant,” said Ramos. “However, the English-dominant or monolingual English-speaking Hispanic is also very important. Actually one of the priorities in our group is reaching that audience in English.
“Right now we have a weekly show called Nación in English on ESPN2 that targets Hispanics in English. In January, we will be launching that show daily. We will half an hour every single day Monday through Friday on ESPN2 in English targeting Hispanics. Then, there will be a sister show on ESPN Deportes in Spanish with components that ‘live’ in both (editions of Nación).”
Last but not least, Ramos discussed the current TV rights deal with MLS and looked to the future since the ESPN/ESPN Deportes deal will end in 2022 in conjunction with FOX Sports and Univision Deportes.
“We have an incredibly great relationship with Major League Soccer and US Soccer,” said Ramos. “The reality is that it’s a very congested space with soccer in this country. Much like some of the networks, we have placed a good bet on MLS growing. And it has. It’s starting to show the fruits of that.
“But it’s still something we take into consideration like with anything — how it’s performed, the economics of it, the conflicts that might occur. It definitely is a property that we find promising, and perhaps wish that it would be performing better than it has.”