Ray Warren knows what his audience wants and the Telemundo Deportes president is going to give it to them.
“The top three sports for Spanish-language fans are soccer, a rerun of soccer and boxing,” Warren said.
In order to continue to quench the insatiable thirst for soccer, or fútbol, NBCUniversal’s Telemundo Deportes and sister network Universo will air more than 300 hours of coverage of the 2021 Olympics from Tokyo this summer, with a main focus on, you guessed it, soccer.
It will be the most Games coverage in Spanish-language in U.S. history; Rio 2016 had 273.5 hours of coverage, while London 2012 had 173.5 hours.
NBC’s coverage of the 2016 Olympics was the most successful media event in history with 6,755 hours of programming, including 2,084 hours of linear programming across 11 networks. Telemundo and Universo’s coverage of the Games reached 16.6 million viewers and eight million adults 18-49.
“If we could have done more this summer we would have but you have to do it smartly,” Warren said. “We are doing more of the things our audience loves, especially soccer. There’s lots of good ‘everything else’ in the Olympics including boxing, track and field, skateboarding, and basketball, but we have to be authentic to our fans. The key has always been authenticity.
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“We’re not going to do every Olympic sport there is—no golf, not a lot of swimming, not a lot of gymnastics—but we’ll do a lot of sports our audience is interested in. A lot of soccer. These are national teams playing, which is as good as it gets.”
To support its expanded Olympics soccer coverage, NBCUniversal will broadcast simultaneous productions on Telemundo Deportes and Universo, rather than airing matches one after the other on different networks.
The networks are also doubling down on women’s soccer, set to provide more coverage of women’s Olympics matches than ever before.
Telemundo Deportes has been bullish on women’s soccer, more than doubling the number of matches aired from the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup to the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The network, which in July announced an exclusive multi-year rights agreement to broadcast Liga MX’s Chivas de Guadalajara home matches in Spanish and English across all Telemundo platforms, also airs matches from the club’s women’s team, Chivas Femenil.
“It’s really maximizing the soccer schedule,” Warren said of the simultaneous soccer broadcasts. “If you fire two networks on at the same time you’ll get a larger total audience. It’s also an opportunity for people to flip back and forth. We’re happy with the way that will work out. I think it’s about giving them what they want, and they want soccer.”
The 2021 Olympics, scheduled from July 23 to August 8, were postponed a year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, though their current status remains a highly discussed issue. The Times published a report on January 21 claiming Japan’s government had privately concluded the Games would be cancelled this year, but a day later, Japan’s Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Manabu Saka told Reuters there is no truth to the report.
With the Games still on at this point, Warren said Telemundo is figuring out logistics on how to safely send less people to Japan, while doing more work out of their offices in Miami and Stamford, Connecticut.
Andres Cantor and Manuel Sol are scheduled to be on the ground in Tokyo, while Ana Jurka will be working out of Telemundo Center in Miami as host of Cambio de Juego, which will focus on women’s sports and events. Miguel Gurwitz will be involved in hosting coverage during the live windows.
Telemundo Deportes digital content will include: live streamed content (simulcast from linear properties and standalone), short-form video content (highlights, profiles, interviews), social content, and on-demand video of long-form content (daily recap show, men’s soccer matches and other select events).
“We are full steam ahead,” Warren said. “Once (the pandemic) hit, even before the Olympics were postponed, we started thinking about staffing levels in Tokyo. We’ll have plenty of people to get the job done. All the talent that needs to be there will be there.
“It could be a great celebration, which is what we would love it to be. We have our heads down and we’re going. Right now until further notice, full steam ahead.”
For Warren, who was hired as Telemundo Deportes president in September 2016, the 2021 Olympics is another can’t-miss major sporting event the network is relying upon to cement itself as the “the home of the biggest and best global sports in Spanish-language.”
“The way the world is changing with viewer consumptions and habits is people really want the big stuff,” he said. “We’ve seen regular-season Bundesliga numbers go down and the Premier League is holding its own nicely, but the big bang is the big events. People want to be part of the conversation and don’t want to have FOMO.
“The bet on big events is really playing into the culture of how people want to exist.”