Soccer is key part of Telemundo’s dominance on Spanish-language TV

Since 2016 when NBC Universal promoted executive Ray Warren to President of Telemundo Deportes, the Spanish-language channel has embarked on a major effort fueled by soccer to elevate the public profile of the network.

While Telemundo Deportes also covers other sports, soccer is at the heart of the network’s coverage. After Warren was promoted to the leadership role, Telemundo’s first challenge was to broadcast the 2018 FIFA World Cup. After an incredibly successful tournament for the broadcaster even without the United States competing in the competition, Telemundo then mid-tournament announced the network had acquired the Spanish-language rights to the 2019 Copa America, featuring the nations of South America dueling to win the prestigious CONMEBOL tournament.

Coupled with strong viewing numbers from the 2018 World Cup, Telemundo has seen impressive viewing numbers from both the FIFA Women’s World Cup and Copa America this summer, where they have the exclusive Spanish-language rights.

These are just a couple of important metrics in a formula that makes soccer so appealing to advertisers who want to connect with viewers across the US.

“If you asked me what the favorite top three sports are in the Hispanic community, it’s soccer, a rerun of a soccer game and boxing,” Warren said in a sit-down interview with World Soccer Talk in Miami.

One of the main benefits of soccer — other than the entertaining sport that it is to watch – is how soccer breaks through so many barriers in the United States. As a television network broadcasting a tournament, soccer hits a much sought-after target audience, many of whom are women more than other sport audiences, more affluent than average Americans, and also speak Spanish (as well as, ever-increasingly, English).

When discussing the growth of the network and using the World Cup as a main element of the strategy, Warren has three statistics that he’s fond of. “First, 20% of all of our viewers did not speak Spanish,” he shared. “That shows a preference for the way we call the game. Next, 80% of the bilingual audience watched.

“In terms of making Telemundo a more popular network, 50% of all the viewers who watched the men’s World Cup on Telemundo had not watched Telemundo in 30 days or more. That’s a reach vehicle the likes of which you can’t spend enough on advertising because people know where the World Cup is.”

During the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Telemundo officially announced that it had acquired the Spanish-language rights to Copa America. Fast forward to this year when World Soccer Talk broke the news that ESPN had acquired the English-language rights, Warren was surprised by ESPN’s strategy.

“That was actually quite an outcome,” said Warren. “I knew that CONMEBOL had done a deal with ESPN for the English-language rights, I did not know it was going to wind up being just ESPN+. I assumed they would put, because what they’ve done with all their deals, ‘I’ll give you 10 here, we’ll give you five there and then we’ll put the rest on ESPN+.’ But, that looks great for us [with Telemundo having exclusive rights on television], especially if 20% came to us last year and they could have gone to FOX.”

So far for Telemundo during the Copa America and Women’s World Cup, the numbers look good. For the opening weekend of Copa America, Telemundo averaged 667,000 total day viewers (6 a.m.-2 a.m.), marking the network’s best weekend viewership since July 14-15, 2018, which featured the FIFA World Cup and third-place matches.

“The Women’s World Cup, if it’s anything like the men’s World Cup, which was also day time viewing, will have a lot of people on phones and tablets, etcetera, smart TVs, whatever,” Warren said. “If we do our job right, I’m hoping we will, we’re going to have this virtuous cycle of Women’s World Cup in the morning and the afternoon, stay in between on digital, come back for the game later on at five o’clock or seven o’clock, [and then] watch Copa America until nine.”

Warren continued, “Four things have changed since Telemundo had the Women’s World Cup in 2015. One, Telemundo is the number one network in Spanish language. In 2015, we were far from number one.

“Two, we have a men’s World Cup under our belt. Number three, women are getting a great place in the ecosystem of world sports. And four, the marketing platforms of NBC Universal and Telemundo.”

In the less than three years that Warren has been at the helm, Telemundo has skyrocketed in relevance and popularity on US television. Warren has been key, but so too have the impressive team of individuals.

Warren summed it up, “If you want to be with the biggest and best global sports in the Spanish language, that’s Telemundo.”

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