Univision network launched its sports cable network, Univision Deportes (UDN) on April 7. Just as it did with its Tlnovela network, which debuted in March, it signed a deal with DISH to broadcast its new sports network. But that has many Univision sports fans upset – they don’t want to be forced to subscribe to DISH in order to see UDN.
Since Univision Deportes President Sandy Brown is no longer in charge, we talked with Senior VP of Productions David Neal to get clarification on the network’s distribution plans, programming strategy and how it will deal with its loss of World Cup rights in 2018 and 2022 to Telemundo.
M.M: Many viewers are upset that Univision Deportes is only available on DISH network. Did you sign an exclusive deal with the satellite broadcaster, or will UDN eventually be available on other carriers?
D.N.: Our distribution team is currently talking to numerous potential partners and we’ll be announcing new deals in the near term.
M.M.: Do you have a way to gauge how many people tuned in to the debut of Univision Deportes?
D.N.: We don’t have numbers yet. We’re delivering the best product we can everyday and we’re confident the audience will be pleased with the results.
M.M.: Are all main sports events going to migrate to Univision Deportes network?
D.N.: It will continue to be a mix. The biggest marquee events will tend to stay on Univision. For example, on February 29, the Mexico vs. Colombia match that played in Miami drew 8 million viewers. That’s a huge audience and the main network is where you’ll be able to aggregate an audience like that.
Deportes allows us to aggregate events and do more analysis. They’ll be spread within different platforms on cable.
M.M.: I understand MLS games will move from Galavision to DISH. Some folks are upset. How will you deal with that?
D.N: All I’ll say is that our programming plans continue to evolve. The first live event we had was an MLS game. We had two other games from Liga Mexicana. There’s a continued mix of platforms in our programming plans.
M.M.: What is Univision Deportes Dos and how will it be different from Univision Deportes?
D.N.: Deportes Dos is a network exclusive to DISH that is already up and running. It will be very heavy on soccer replays. It will also have an exclusive show that will provide a weekly Liga mexicana review called UDX360. It’s hosted by Alejandro Berry and Jorge Perez Navarro.
M.M.: What’s the strategy for the development and growth of Univision Deportes?
D.N.: We have two original shows on the air right now. “Univision Deportes Extra,” that provides news highlights and a “Fútbol Central,” which is shared on both Univision and Univision Deportes network. It’s our intention to develop more original shows as we continue.
M.M.: How did you select the talent for the network’s signature show Univision Deportes Extra?
D.N.: It was a lengthy process that took numerous months. We looked within the family. We received resumés from within Univision network. That’s how we selected Antonieta Collins, who came from our Dallas station and Jorge Calvo from Univision Orlando.
Alejandro was a clear favorite from the moment we saw his reel from Televisa. He has curiosity and deep knowledge of Liga Mexicana. He was an early standout and was a great example of the partnership between Univision and Televisa.
We had numerous candidates. But based on my experience, you try to vet not only those who are individually good but will work well together. You want complementary skills and I think we’ve achieved that with our group.
M.M.: How will Univision’s current partnership with Televisa benefit Univision Deportes?
D.N.: It’s a partnership in the truest sense of the word. A majority of the hours we broadcast right now are programs produced by Televisa Deportes. They’re studio shows around Liga Mexicana and other interactive shows. Those shows have never been available in the U.S.
That, combined with Alejandro Berry and the fact we were able to get contributions from Televisa Deportes reporters gives us exclusive content that resonates very well with our viewers. And they can’t get that anywhere else.
M.M.: Do you think there’s enough room for a third Spanish language sports network? How do you plan to compete with already established networks like ESPN and Fox Deportes?
D.N.: Without a doubt there’s room for the three of us. We’re now the third in the space, but there’s plenty of space for the three of us. We’re going to bring a very specific audience and loyal fan base. Our viewers have an insatiable appetite for sports content and we do that very well.
We’ll continue to bring unique offerings that will make us stand out in the marketplace.
M.M.: Univision experienced a surprising loss last year when it got outbid for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup rights. What are Univision’s plans to offset its lack of future world cup coverage?
D.N.: We’re very focused on Brazil 2014. That’s going to be a magnificent venue. We’ll bring unprecedented coverage in terms of hours, programs and highlights of the event.
In terms of business after that, the launching of UDN is a powerful statement that we’re in the business to stay.
M.M.: Sandy Brown’s departure from his job as Univision Sports President in early March seems to have come at a critical time, given the launch of the new network. Will he really continue to contribute as an adviser? Any updates on the search for who’ll replace him?
D.N.: I can’t talk about that, but he has been a 100% supportive. We have an incredibly strong team in place and we worked really hard with the changes. We had a successful launch.
A Univision spokesperson confirms that Brown remains in the company in an advisory capacity and that a search for his replacement continues.
About David Neal:
He is Senior Vice President of Production of Univision Deportes. Prior to joining Univision in September of 2011, he spent 29 years at NBC, most recently as Executive Producer of NBC Sports. Since 2001, he also served as Executive Vice President of NBC Olympics.