When ESPN Deportes launched as a 24-hour network on January 7, 2004, the event culminated a series of efforts over several years to serve a rapidly growing Latino sports fan base hungry for televised sports in their own language. In the mid-1990s, when then ESPN EVP of Affiliate Sales and Marketing George Bodenheimer began exploring the idea of a Spanish-language ESPN service in the U.S., he instinctively knew what the 2000 census would later confirm— that the U.S. Hispanic population was growing at a rapid pace, creating demands for a variety of services, including Spanish language sports television programming.
With Bodenheimer’s direction, ESPN was ahead of the curve, exploring the prospects of televising ESPN programming in Spanish and looking to secure the U.S. Spanish-language telecast rights in any negotiation for English-language domestic programming.
ESPN’s first on-air effort came in the spring of 2000, when ESPN and ESPN2 became the first national networks to incorporate Spanish accent marks and the Spanish alphabet when graphically presenting the names of Hispanic Major League Baseball players.
ESPN’s next initiative was more ambitious. In the summer of 2000, ESPN and Major League Baseball teamed up to produce Spanish-language telecasts of Sunday Night Baseball and Home Run Derby. These simulcasts were completely separate productions with on-site commentators, commercials, on-air promotions and player interviews in Spanish. The telecasts were offered to affiliates free-of-charge. The initiative was significant not only because it resulted in ESPN’s first Spanish-language telecasts in the U.S., but also because it established the blueprint for many future ESPN Deportes telecasts, utilizing the combined resources of ESPN International and ESPN domestic operations.
In 2007, ESPN Deportes celebrated three years of serving the U.S. Hispanic sports fan. Since then, we have been working hard to better serve the Latino fan by ultimately delivering content anywhere, anytime.
ESPN Deportes has become the leading Spanish language multimedia brand supported by television (ESPN Deportes TV), radio (ESPN Deportes Radio), print (ESPN Deportes La Revista), wireless (ESPNdeportes.com) and wireless (ESPN Deportes Wireless).
2007 was an exceptional year for ESPN Deportes. We have made great in-roads in making the network available to the Hispanic sports fans in the U.S. The network now reaches 3.2 million Hispanic homes, a 50% increase in distribution over last year. One of the most common pitfalls we have seen many companies make when marketing to Hispanics is assuming that the Hispanic population is homogeneous in taste. In order to serve a myriad of sports fans with widely differing tastes, our programming strategy relies on offering the most diverse portfolio of sports. The network’s 1,800-plus annual event schedule includes coverage of Major League Baseball, NBA, NFL, UEFA Champions League, First Division Soccer from Mexico, winter baseball from the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Venezuela, tennis, golf and much more. But ESPN Deportes’ programming strategy extends beyond showing live sports. We have taken established English-language franchises like SportsCenter and produce original Spanish-language versions. This month (August), we will be making yet another boost to our studio shows by expanding the network’s daily half-hour editions of SportsCenter to one-hour shows.
Additionally, we expect a 25% increase in Mexican studio programming in 2008.
Lino Garcia is General Manager, ESPN Deportes