The quadrennial soccer tourney is a prime chance for Univision to show off its growing sports and news operation. Key Univision personalities have been taking the opportunity to venture outside of the “futbol” field for lifestyle and local-color reporting on players in this year’s tourney and the Brazilian setting.
Leading the offense for the Spanish-lingo giant are its star commentators and analysts: Pablo Ramirez (pictured), Jesus Bracamontes, Enrique Bermudez, Felix Fernandez, Luis Omar Tapia, Jorge Perez-Navarro and Diego Balado, as well as a number of former soccer players.
For the semi-quarter finals that began Friday, former Argentine player Javier Zanetti, who played during 1998 and 2002 World Cup tourneys, joins Univision Deportes’ team of special guest commentators along with former stars Mauro Camoranesi, who was on the Italian National Team that clinched the 2006 trophy; Pavel Pardo who played with Mexico’s National team in World Cup 1998 and 2006; Marcelo Balboa, member of the U.S. National Team who played in the 1990 and 1994 World Cups; Ramon Ramirez, a Mexico National Team veteran of the 1994 and 1998 World Cups; and Univision Deportes’ Hristo Stoichkov, formerly of the Bulgarian National Team for the 1994 World Cup.
On the lifestyle front, Raul de Molina, the multiple Emmy-winning co-host of network’s daytime staple “El Gordo y la Flaca” (The Fat and the Skinny) leading Univision’s entertainment team in Rio de Janeiro.
After months of preparation and extensive coordination for the on-air coverage, it turns out that getting from one game to another across the vast expanse of Brazil has been the key challenge for the large Univision contingent.
“A direct flight from Rio to Fortaleza, can become an 11-hour flight due to stops, delays or cancellations; adding local transportation, the trip can turn into 25 hours, which leaves you very little time to sleep and rest,” said Bermudez, aka “El Perro” (The Dog). He’s best known for the colorful phrases he cries out at games such as “zambombazo!” (wowzer!), “versallesco!” (great play!) or “al rinconcito, papa!” for a goal aimed at the corner of the net. This is Bermudez’s 10th World Cup, but his first for Univision, which he joined in March after some 35 years at Mexican media giant Televisa.
Pablo Ramirez is known as “El Torre de Jalisco” (The Tower of Jalisco) in reference to his 6’5” frame and his home state of Jalisco, Mexico. Traveling in Brazil’s small domestic planes has been a feat of contortion. ”I do yoga during these flights,” he joked. Ramirez is best known for his drawn-out iconic cry of “GOOOAAAL!” This is his 7th World Cup during his 20 years with Univision. The 2006 World Cup in Germany stands out for him for its organization and great roads.
De Molina’s travails are of a different nature. He’s been shocked to find Rio taxi cabs with TV sets on the dashboard and in one “El Gordo y la Flaca” episode, he ended up watching a game in a cab because heavy traffic stopped him from reaching the stadium in time.
“I haven’t seen a single accident,” he mused. Other episodes have him going out with fishermen in the early morning, playing ‘futbol’ with retired players and sampling pastries with the King of Rio’s Carnaval.
Airing twice daily during the tournament, “El Gordo y la Flaca” has been averaging 1.8 million total viewers, per Nielsen.
Cabler Univision Deportes Network (UDN) has reached 70.9 million total viewers through Round 16 of the World Cup, which was simulcast from June 28 to July 1 on Univision Network and UDN.
Digital viewership is also soaring with Univision Digital averaging 1.2 million live streams per match, a 244% increase from the 2010 World Cup. World Cup mobile traffic to Univision Digital is 87% vs. 37% in 2010.
“This World Cup has been a watershed moment for soccer in the U.S. and I’m very happy to see that Univision Deportes will continue to be the home for soccer 12 months a year with MLS, LigaMX, Copa de Oro in 2015 and Copa America in 2016 so we are extremely busy, which is great,” said Bermudez.
Univision is making the most of this year’s World Cup as rights will shift to rival Telemundo for the 2018 tourney. Univision will go full throttle through the final match on July 13.