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Univision Deportes Plans to Dominate US Soccer Viewership

Expecting to attract 51 percent of U.S. soccer viewership regardless of language, Univision Deportes continues to build on its global soccer schedule.

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Univision Deportes is making a quiet move to become the U.S. soccer broadcasting power.

The sports network, started in 2012, was the third-most viewed sports network this January in the key 18-to-49 demographic, behind ESPN and ESPN2, and is projected to attract 51 percent of the all U.S. soccer viewership.

“We found there was a huge niche that was an opportunity, and we seized the opportunity,” said Univision Deportes President Juan Carlos Rodriguez. “We didn’t have the ability to grab the big four sports, and we decided soccer would be our main bet.”

There are more than 27 outlets that air soccer in the U.S., but few have positioned the sport like Univision. By holding rights for the MLS, Liga MX, and a variety of European leagues, including the Champions League, Univision Deportes can air soccer during the daytime and primetime all week long.

“We have a very robust programming schedule for our audience,” Rodriguez said.

He said the initial goal for Univision Deportes was to become a “CNN of sports for Hispanics,” but the pivot came early because of the available niche to grow a sport with great U.S. potential and become the “ultimate home of soccer.”

READ MORE: DC United’s Broadcast Deal Could Further Demonstrate Digital Media Potential

Univision Deportes’ relative dominance in soccer viewership has helped grow the number of soccer minutes viewed in the U.S., up 68.9 billion minutes, or 191 percent, the past six years. The vast amount of broadcast rights owned by Univision Deportes is the way the network expects to keep the growth moving forward.

“Our investment in soccer has proven to be very smart,” said Steve Mandala, Univision president of advertising sales and marketing. “When we launched Univision Deportes, it was our vision to become the undisputed home of soccer in the U.S., because we felt it was one of the few sports at the time with the ability to break out. There was a clear need in the market and we seized the opportunity to bring the best leagues and tournaments to our air, serving a passionate and engaged audience.”

“It truly is the only professional sport that is 365 days a year, and we have proven to be dedicated to giving soccer a home year-round with the best portfolio in the country, irrespective of language.”

Univision Deportes is celebrating its first full year with the UEFA broadcasting rights with this month’s Champions League knock-out stage matches. Rodriguez said the rights for UEFA were secured because there was a need for a relevant daytime property.

An interesting quirk has developed as well with the UEFA rights, as new viewers are turning in. Liga MX is the most-watched club soccer league in the U.S., but 43 percent of Univision Deportes’ audience watching the Champions League had never watched a single prior match on the network.

Also exciting to Rodriguez is the runway ahead of the sport.

“The beauty of soccer is the globalization and accessibility,” Rodriguez said. “Someone will like their national team from where they come from, they’ll have a team they like in Europe, a team in the U.S., and they’ll watch players for entertainment. There are opportunities for fans of soccer to watch the best in the world.”

Rodriguez said there are four key pieces to continuing to build Univision’s soccer empire.

Univision Keys to Soccer Growth

  1. The network will continue its investment into soccer broadcast rights.
  2. Investments will also be made into technology to make the broadcasts appealing regardless of language.
  3. Univision will continue to work to bring together the best on-air talent in soccer.
  4. A desire to drive new properties in the soccer landscape, from professional to recreational.

READ MORE: Turner President Addresses the Future of TV and the ‘Three A’s’ Concept

Rodriguez also noted the network will continue investments in MMA and boxing, and it hopes to continue to develop a relationship with the big four leagues, even if it doesn’t secure the relevance or deep pockets to secure broadcast rights.

“Soccer continues to be the only major sport in the U.S. with a growing audience, and in a day and age where media rights are incredibly fragmented, we have positioned ourselves to own the majority of viewership for a sport gaining in popularity,” Mandala said.

But with soccer having massive global popularity and an audience that skews young, Rodriguez said the focus will remain on the sport.

With soccer transcending beyond language, Rodriguez said he’s happy the network is continuing its posturing to be the number-one U.S. soccer destination regardless of language.

“We’re very proud our bet on soccer has succeeded,” Rodriguez said. “We’re clearly winners to this point.”

Pat Evans is a writer based in Las Vegas, focusing on sports business, food, and beverage. He graduated from Michigan State University in 2012. He's written two books: Grand Rapids Beer and Nevada Beer. Evans can be reached at pat@frntofficesport.com.

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Golf Digest Back Charging For Growth With New Owner

Golf Digest is set to embark on its third ownership transition in its nearly 70 years of operation and all signs point to growth under new owners.

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Photo Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Discovery, Inc. continues its drive into golf with the acquisition of Golf Digest.

Discovery had already entered the golf space, attaining exclusive rights deals outside the U.S. for the PGA Tour, European Tour and Ladies European Tour. GOLFTV, an international streaming service launched by Discovery this past New Year’s Day, is in year one of a 12-year, $2.4 billion deal carrying the PGA Tour’s TV and streaming rights outside the U.S. Discovery also has global content deals with Tiger Woods and Francesco Molinari, using GOLFTV as its platform.

The bullish approach follows the trend of niche content in today’s media landscape. Discovery knows this firsthand with Food Network and MotorTrend. In sports, Discovery has had success with Eurosport and realizes sport fans crave consistent coverage.

READ MORE: The Caddie Network Partnership With Golf Digest Shows Power of Niche Platforms

“We’re looking to evolve our business and investing in content and genres that work for traditional and digital channels,” says Alex Kaplan, Discovery Golf president and general manager. “We learned from our experience with Eurosport Player, it’s very difficult to build an engaged fanbase when we offer multi-sport content.

“Let’s go deep into a specific vertical. Golf rights were available in an expansive way, and it’s not just compelling to watch, but fans play it, buy it, travel for it. It’s an ecosystem that was particularly compelling.”

The acquisition includes all brands under the Golf Digest brand, including Golf World, Golf Digest Schools and The Loop. According to the press release, Golf Digest attracts 4.8 million monthly readers and 60 million monthly video views. That’s along with its 2.2 million social followers.

This is Golf Digest’s third transition of ownership in its nearly 70 years of operation. All three have brought the media company different advantages, says Golf Digest editor Jerry Tarde, who’s been with the company for 42 years.

Tarde said The New York Times, which acquired the magazine in 1969, brought the basics and values of journalism, while Conde Nast, the owner since 2001, brought design, art and sophistication to the brand. Now, Tarde believes Discovery will bring growth.

Tarde, along with being editor-in-chief, gains a new title and role: Discovery Golf global head of strategy and content.

“This is an organization we’re at the heart of, in terms of developing sports and connecting with a high-value audience that’s passionate about the subject,” Tarde says. “This is the most exciting thing to happen to Golf Digest since it was founded in 1950. It lights a fire under us and gives us an opportunity to improve and expand U.S. coverage.

“We’ll also be able to extend it worldwide to more than 200 countries.”

On the other side of the equation, the acquisition gives Discovery a golf presence in the U.S. Kaplan said Discovery has been collecting its golf assets and knew an editorial vertical would be crucial, but it could take years to build. The Golf Digest acquisition allows Discovery to acquire that piece with one check.

“Our offering to golf fans and golf advertisers is now that of a global platform,” Kaplan says. “We can bring an aggregated golf audience anywhere in the world.”

READ MORE: GolfPass Could Set Standard in 21st-Century Sports Media

With a strong strategy in place, it will be business as usual for the time being, Tarde says, but there will be talk of new ideas and potential investments. Discovery will retain Golf Digest staff, continue the U.S. monthly print product and acquire global licenses for editions 70 countries.

“We’ve got a great team that’s been underutilized, really,” Tarde said. “Because of the way the publishing economy has been treated, our business has been in retreat. That’s now the way I spent my first 30 years. We were charging.

“This is the exciting part, we’re back on the charge.”

Like Tiger Woods on the prowl on Sunday.

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Inside the XFL’s New TV Deals

With nine months to go until its first game, the XFL has locked in its lineup of broadcast partners for all 43 regular season games.

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Photo Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else. 

With nine months to go until its first game, the XFL has locked in its lineup of broadcast partners.

The deals will see all 43 games appear on either broadcast or cable TV and will see them divided up between ABC, Fox, ESPN, ESPN2, FS1 and FS2.

What do you need to know?

1. – 24 of the XFL’s 43 games to be on broadcast TV (13 on ABC; 11 on Fox)

2. – According to Joe Flint of the WSJ, the deals are for three years, but no cash is changing hands.

3. – As part of the deals, the broadcast partners will cover the production costs of the games, which John Ourand notes will run $400,000 per game.

4. – Disney and Fox will keep all the television advertising inventory for the games while the XFL will handle the selling of sponsorships in the venues, according to Flint.

Will we see a repeat of 2001? 

The XFL’s reboot will come 19 years after McMahon and company attempted to make spring football a thing. Like the AAF this year, the league started with a promising opening night and then sputtered to the end. By the end of its first and only season, the XFL saw its ratings fall from a 9.5 to a 1.5 at their lowest point, according to OSW Review.

While the first time around may have not gone as planned, executives from all sides of the table are enthusiastic about the possibilities.

“The effort Vince is throwing behind it with his own personal capital and the combination of Fox and Disney platforms give us the best chance to make spring football work.” – ESPN programming chief Burke Magnus to Joe Flint of the WSJ.

Rolling into upfronts…

The announcement of the deals couldn’t have come at a more strategic time for all parties involved with upfronts scheduled to begin in six days. Given the fact that the broadcast partners will be responsible for selling ads, it would be rather surprising if the XFL inventory wasn’t included in their presentations.

Last year alone, the television upfront market for commercials generated $20.8 billion in commitment from advertisers, up 5.2% from the previous year, according to an estimate by Media Dynamics.

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Why Fewer Ad Breaks are Coming to the Super Bowl

Fox will be cutting back the number of commercial breaks for the big game by one, having only four breaks per quarter instead of five.

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Photo Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else. 

Next year’s Super Bowl might feel slightly different to viewers.

That’s because Fox will be cutting back the number of commercial breaks for the big game by one, having only four breaks per quarter instead of five, according to Brian Steinberg of Variety.

Fewer breaks, but the same amount of commercials…

Although Fox will be cutting down one whole commercial break each quarter, the four that remain will be slightly longer, allowing the broadcaster to still have the same amount of slots for advertisers even with fewer breaks in the action.

This isn’t a first for the NFL…

The league has been working with broadcast partners since last year to find new ways to deliver advertisements during telecasts. The initiative last year focused on delivering more sponsored vignettes and less “billboard” ads, a change that could be difficult at times for the networks seeing as in the past they have used the “billboard” inventory as bonuses to big-spending sponsors, according to Variety.

Why do they want to cut down? According to calculations from Streaming Observer’s Chris Brantner, the average NFL fan watches almost 24 hours of advertisements in a season.

Or other leagues…

As leagues battle for the attention of their consumers, making sure they give them less time to check their phone or change the channel has become a priority.

Earlier this year, MLB announced that it was planning to reduce each national commercial break by 25 seconds, NASCAR has been using split screen advertising since its days on ESPN back in 2011, and the NBA has done it with ESPN during timeouts.

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