By John Ourand, Media Writer
July 16, 2018
As Univision enters the third week of its contentious carriage battle with Dish Network, one of the network’s top executives predicted that the start of Mexico’s Liga MX this week and the UEFA Champions League next month will force the satellite company to cut a deal.
Dish Network and its over-the-top platform, Sling TV, dropped several Univision networks on June 30, right in the middle of the World Cup. Sling TV dropped Univision’s sports channel, Univision Deportes, though the channel still remains on Dish.
It’s unlikely Dish would have made any of these moves this summer if Univision had kept the rights to carry World Cup games. But Univision’s chief revenue officer, Tonia O’Connor, defended the decision to pass on World Cup rights because of the wide variety of soccer rights Univision holds. “If Dish believes that the World Cup is so important, they’ll come to realize that the portfolio of soccer rights that we offer is exceedingly more important,” O’Connor said.
In 2011, NBCUniversal’s Telemundo paid $600 million for the Spanish-language rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, a huge increase over the rights fee Univision paid for the 2010 and 2014 World Cup events.
O’Connor said Univision decided to spend its money on volume, using the funds it would have spent on the World Cup to pick up the media rights to other leagues, like Liga MX and UEFA. “We made a big strategic decision during the last bid for the World Cup,” she said. “Rather than investing in 60 matches every four years, instead we wanted to invest heavily in soccer that was year-round.”
Univision executives expect the popularity of these soccer matches to the U.S. Spanish-speaking audience will pressure Dish Network into doing a deal.
Last weekend, Univision carried the Liga MX doubleheader Campeón de Campeones and Supercopa MX. The Liga MX Torneo Apertura starts July 20 and will provide around eight matches each weekend across Univision networks. And its UEFA deal kicks in this August and will be carried by multiple Univision networks.
“In total, we’ll be doing 1,100 soccer matches per year,” O’Connor said. “That’s 4,400 matches every four years, the same period as the World Cup; 4,400 matches versus 60 seemed like a no-brainer for us to invest and pursue this strategy that we have in place.”
As with most carriage disputes, the one with Dish Network comes down to price. Univision wants distributors to pay it a rate more in line with English-language broadcasters. O’Connor cited stats that show Univision is the third-most-watched network on Dish’s platform, and Univision Deportes is the second-most-watched sports network on their platform.
On June 30, when Univision went dark, Dish Network released a statement citing Univision’s failure to secure World Cup rights in 2022 and 2026 as one of the reasons the carriage negotiations became so difficult.
“Despite ratings for these channels decreasing by approximately 30 percent over the past five years among Dish customers, Univision is demanding rate increases of roughly 75 percent,” said Alfredo Rodríguez Diaz-Marta, vice president of DishLatino and Sling Latino. “Univision’s attempted price hikes target Hispanics despite the fact that fewer members of our community are watching Univision.”
Source: Sports Business Journal