By: John Aceti
Univision Deportes yesterday aired the first three games of the first leg of the UEFA Champions League, its first broadcasts under the deal that saw it get Spanish-language rights to air ChampionsLeague games. Univision Exec VP/Sports Programming & AcquisitionEric Conrad spoke to THE DAILY about the net’s Champions League coverage and emphasis on live sports programming.
Q: How important was it for Univision to win these rights?
Conrad: We saw it as the last piece of the puzzle for us when it comes to consolidating our portfolio around soccer. The Champions League in the soccer world, it’s clearly established itself as the preeminent competition, with the best and most famous players on the best teams in the world participating. But from an audience perspective, they haven’t quite reached that level yet, so we still view it as an ascendant property, one that we can help grow by airing it across our portfolio of networks and our digital platforms.
Q: How does Univision see the Champions League rights helping the net with its investment into soccer?
Conrad: One, it’s a ratings driver for any of our networks, but it’s a value driver for Univision Deportes. We want to continue to grow our audience base and we feel we will do that with the ChampionsLeague. Not only will we continue to deliver the Mexican soccer games that our hardcore audience already wants to see, but we feel that with the Champions League, it’s diversifying our audience by diversifying our portfolio. So even though it’s in the same genre of soccer, our research shows that the audience does differ, so we look forward to bringing in a broader audience. This is additional content, additional games that fill in those weekday hours.
Q: How is Univision differentiating its Champions League coverage from previous models?
Conrad: First and foremost, treating it with the respect that it deserves. Every game will be available live, whether that’s on our linear platforms or on our digital platforms. We’ll put three games on across our linear networks, as opposed to the maximum two games on linear networks at one time. We’re going to have a reporter, based in Europe, who’s going to be covering the relevant games each match day. They’ll help fill our pregame shows, our postgame shows, halftime reports, but we’re investing heavily into the look and feel on air, and heavy into technology as well. We developed three new technological advances, one is this ‘tele-transportation’ where we can interview a player, based in Europe for the Champions League, where it seems like they’re actually sitting in our set, and it’s a live interview.
Q: What are Univision’s main goals with the Champions League rights, with the net’s recent UEFA Super Cup broadcasts drawing700,000 viewers (the most ever for a U.S. audience in any language)?
Conrad: The goal is for us to make this season the most-watchedChampions League season ever in the U.S. Any language. We want this to be the most-watched Champions League season and we believe it will be the most-watched Champions League season ever in the U.S. Secondly, we’ve had a great response from the advertising marketplace around these games. In the past when there are so many properties perhaps that are averaging in the sphere of what the Champions League was averaging, it didn’t become a priority in the eyes of sponsors, even the known Champions League sponsors or other advertisers in competing categories. What we’re seeing now, with 700,000 viewers at 3:00 in the afternoon on a weekday, that’s a big number. We’re generating a lot of interest in the upfront marketplace for these properties and that’s another goal is to attract advertisers who haven’t already spent with Univision and the UEFA Champions League.
Q: With Univision’s investment in live sporting events, soccer specifically, how do the Champions League rights position Univision as a major player in live sports going forward?
Conrad: Live sports is going to drive our business. UnivisionDeportes in primetime already is the third most-watched sports network among adults 18-49 in the U.S. We know that’s primarily on the back of our live rights. We’re not settling for number three, we want to continue to grow.
Source: Sports Business Daily