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Sports Business Daily: Hangin’ With…Univision Communications EVP, Content Distribution Eric Ratchman

May 5, 2017

Eric Ratchman is the EVP, content distribution of Univision Communications. Following roles at ESPN and Accenture, which he described as being at the “intersection of technology and business,” he joined Univision for the opportunity to be involved with all aspects of content distribution. Ratchman spoke to SBD Global about Univision’s recent deal with Facebook to livestream Liga MX games, how the broadcasts can reach an untapped audience and plans for the network to become the destination for football in the U.S.

On the feedback from Liga MX broadcasts on Facebook …
Eric Ratchman: We’re pleased with the result so far in that we’re looking to build an audience on Facebook that has not been there before. We’ve certainly had a Facebook presence — we’ve done live events, although they have not been sports events, before on Facebook — and we’ve done highlights and updates on Facebook before on our Deportes page. But we’ve never done full games before so I think what we are looking to do is really build a recurring audience on Facebook and that’s the real opportunity that we are pursuing right now.

On how streaming broadcasts are different from traditional broadcasts …
Ratchman: We produce these games unique for Facebook and part of the reason is that the games we’ve licensed to them so far have been English-language. The Liga MX games are on our air in Spanish but on Facebook we produce them in English. We have English-language graphics and we have English-language talent that produce the games. I think some of the great feedback we’ve gotten from the viewers is that they really like the talent, they find the games exciting. Part of that is that while it’s in English, they get the same excitement and the same sort of in-culture talent because it’s Spanish-language talent. So you’re getting the “Goooal,” but it’s actually in English.

On the popularity of Liga MX in the U.S. …
Ratchman: Liga MX blows EPL out of the water. Mexican league soccer is by far the number one soccer property in the United States.

On advertising for Facebook broadcasts …
Ratchman: Right now, Facebook isn’t monetizing the advertising in the feed. I would say they are in experimental mode and looking to build the audience and monetize later. … But we’re looking to monetize it in a very similar way from an advertising standpoint to what we do on traditional television once we get advertising up and running.

On plans for broadening the Facebook broadcasts to include Spanish-language feeds …
Ratchman: Not for Liga MX — it’s going to stay in English. But depending on rights that we license in the future, Spanish-language could be considered. We’re looking to build and really find the English-language audience that we have not had before because our Deportes and Univision and UniMás, where our soccer games are all produced and aired, are all Spanish-language networks. We don’t have the opportunity to really go after that bilingual or that English-language audience on our air so we really see Facebook as an opportunity to build that audience in that space for our sports rights and to monetize those rights.

On the challenges of this new broadcast sphere …
Ratchman: The great thing is new partners are really excited about soccer and so the opportunity is in exploring those new partnerships and figuring that out. The challenge is that it’s all new. So, you’ve got to go figure it out — everything from figuring out the deal structure to the monetization to how to go build the audience and market it. That’s a challenge but it’s also fun for us and it’s the opportunity.

On how to build on Univision’s momentum from last year’s Copa América Centenario …
Ratchman: Gold Cup is going to be a big part of that in the short-term but we’re also continuing to invest in sports rights and we’re continuing to acquire more Liga MX teams and we’re continuing to go after more soccer rights. … As we acquire more rights and produce more games and produce more around the game, we expect to continue to see our viewership grow.

On the recent acquisition of Champions League rights …
Ratchman: We expect those rights to be big performers for us and our audience to really respond to those games and for Univision to be a destination for those games coming up. We’re continuing to be a bigger and bigger destination for soccer and that’s a big piece of the pie here. … UDN (Univision Deportes Network) and Univision, in general, is really becoming the home of soccer in this country and I think soccer is both a growing sport and Univision as the home of soccer is a growing destination for that.

On expanding to other leagues …
Ratchman: MLS (Major League Soccer) cut a deal in which we’re involved with MLS games that are on the Deportes page and Facebook has expressed interest with other potential content with us as well. … I think it’s in the next year or two — it’s in the near-term. It’s not five to six years out.

Source: Sports Business Daily

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