Net’s cup flows over

Univision expects $180 million in World Cup ad revenue

MIAMI When the World Cup soccer tourney kicks off on June 9 in Germany, the event will be to Univision what the Olympics were to NBC.

With an expected $180 million in ad revenue, Univision is promoting the event across its programming, and plans to will pull out all the stops in its coverage. All 64 matches will be broadcast live — most on its flagship broadcast network and some on its second broadcast net, Telefutura — and many matches will re-air during primetime on Telefutura or its pay TV net, Galavision.

Univision executives expect the Cup’s European locale to help them get a big ratings boost, given that viewers will be able to watch matches live during daylight hours. The 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan forced U.S. fans to watch matches live in the wee hours.

Univision executives estimate an average U.S. match audience of about 2 million, compared with 1 million in 2002. They expect gross viewership to climb to 45 million-50 million, up from 35 million in 2002.

“I’m looking for about 50% growth in audience delivery versus ’98 numbers (of 1.3 million),” says Ceril Shagrin, senior VP of corporate research for Univision Communications.

The World Cup marks one of Univision’s signature investments. It paid $150 million for the exclusive Spanish language U.S broadcast rights to the 2002 and 2006 World Cups. It also has a $325 million deal in place for a package that includes the 2010 and 2014 events as well as the women’s 2007 and 2011 World Cups, the 2009 and 2013 FIFA Confed Cups and 22 other tournaments.

Univision has sold about $130 million in ads against it so far — meaning it has already recouped the license fee which is pretty unusual in the world of network TV sports, where the license fees are exorbitant and rarely recouped so quickly, if ever. ABC’s “Monday Night Leader” was a loss leader and NBC took a flyer on the NFL for about a decade due to the expense, but Univision says, “we’re not in the loss leader business.”

Univision Sports prexy David Downs says the network will draw more viewers with in-depth coverage, including specials and a 30-minute pre-game show before each match.

By contrast, he notes, English-language competitor ABC Sports has shifted more games to ESPN2, away from ABC and the more widely distributed ESPN.

“ABC and ESPN will come on a few minutes before kickoff,” Downs says. “Seven minutes before kickoff, we will be on the field and won’t leave.”

Some 60 to 70 staffers will be in Germany to produce the coverage. Univision already has begun a massive promotion of the Cup, and various talk and news programs will showcase the tourney.

The network is expected to reap about $180 million from advertising, according to . Univision also has licensed wireless rights to Verizon. Such sponsors as Lowe’s, Target and Domino’s didn’t buy time in the last event, but are doing so this year, lured by a broadening base of viewers.

Says Dennis McCauley, co-president of Univision Networks sales, the tourney “transcends sports — it’s about nationality.”

Michael Learmonth contributed to this report.