World Cup switch viewed from both sides (audio)


Both the sports world and broadcasters were shocked last month when NBCUniversal’s (NBCU) Telemundo outbid Univision and snatched away the biggest sports event for US Spanish television – the FIFA World Cup soccer tournament. We got the view from both sides as the company’s reported their Q3 results.

NBCU is now majority owned by Comcast. And while Telemundo is but a small piece of the Comcast media conglomerate, a $600 million outlay for sports rights is still big enough to warrant mention by Comcast CEO Brian Roberts. He didn’t confirm the price tag – nearly double the $325 million that Univision paid for the current cycle, but Roberts insisted in his Wall Street conference call that the deal for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments and other FIFA soccer events during the 2015-2022 period will be profitable for Telemundo.

Brian Roberts:

According to Roberts, having the World Cup should be “a game changer” for Telemundo in its business. NBCU CEO Steve Burke later in the call told analysts that Telemundo has to be aggressive because the US Spanish language TV market currently belongs 80% to Univision and only 20% to Telemundo.

On the other side, the World Cup has been a core offering at Univision. In his conference call, Univision CEO Randy Falco declared that “Univision remains the home of soccer for US Hispanics.” He downplayed the FIFA award to Telemundo and said Univision is a disciplined bidder for sports rights.

Randy Falco:

Falco said Univision remains committed to launching its 24/7 sports cable channel in 2012. Univision will broadcast the 2014 World Cup, taking place in Brazil, under its current FIFA contract.

RBR-TVBR observation: The 2018 World Cup in Russia is still a long way off, but Telemundo has certainly delivered the message that it now has the green light from Comcast corporate headquarters to spend what’s needed to give Univision some real competition. For now, though, Univision officials are treating Telemundo as little more than an annoyance, saying that it is really competing with Univision’s younger-skewing sister, TeleFutura, for second place (a distant second place) in US Hispanic television.