World Cup: Univision Puts Live-Streaming Behind Pay-TV Wall for Final Rounds

Comcast subs will not have access to Spanish-language telecasts online or mobile devices for last eight matches

Univision Communications let anyone in the U.S. watch its broadcasts of the opening rounds of the 2014 FIFA World Cup live online and via mobile devices — and scored record digital usage.

The media company said Tuesday’s USA-Belgium match delivered a record 1.8 million unique viewers, becoming Univision Digital’s largest live-streamed event ever. The game, in which Team USA was eliminated by the Belgians in extra time, garnered 4% more viewers than the USA-Germany match on June 26, the previous high-water mark.

But for the final eight matches, starting with the July 4 France-Germany and Brazil-Colombia matchups, Univision will move its digital feeds behind a pay-TV wall, requiring users to subscribe to a provider that carries the Univision Deportes Network cable channel. The so-called TV Everywhere authentication model is the same one employed by ESPN for its WatchESPN service.

Unfortunately for futbol fans, Comcast is not on board: The largest U.S. pay-TV provider doesn’t have an agreement to carry Univision Deportes Network, so Comcast subs won’t be able to access the games on Univision Digital platforms. Operators that carry UDN include DirecTV, Dish Network, Time Warner Cable, Cablevision Systems, Cox, AT&T U-verse, Verizon FiOS and Bright House Networks.

Comcast said in a statement, “Due to terms of our existing TV Everywhere deal with Univision, we will not offer live-streaming coverage of their Spanish-language World Cup programming via our Xfinity TV Go properties or through authentication on Univision’s website and app.”

SEE ALSO: Univision Pacts with Twitter for 2014 World Cup Sponsored Video Tweets

The cable company noted that TV customers can live-stream the final eight games in English (or Portuguese) through WatchESPN and the Xfinity TV Go website and apps. In addition, Comcast customers can watch Univision’s live coverage on broadcast TV, which also will be available on the operator’s Instant on Demand service immediately after the live broadcast begins.

Univision’s goal in tying the live-stream of the World Cup’s final rounds to pay-TV subscriptions is convince Comcast — and other distributors — to add the Univision Deportes Network. Today, UDN is available in 34.7 million households, which includes 6.3 million Hispanic homes (versus 95.8 million for ESPN).

Comcast, with 22.6 million TV subs, would expand UDN’s footprint by millions even if it were offered in Spanish-language or sports tiers. To rally soccer fans to its cause, Univision has set up a web page urging Comcast customers to contact the MSO and ask that the sports network be added.

Univision said the free live-streaming of the first 56 World Cup games on digital platforms was “an open trial period.” The service is available through the Univision Deportes app and on the company’s website.

“We wanted to let the millions of soccer fans experience the World Cup and get familiar with our great coverage on the Univision Deportes app, while informing them of the benefits of TV Everywhere — full access to all the matches of the World Cup and more — included as part of their pay-TV subscription,” a rep said.

It’s unclear whether Univision’s TV Everywhere strategy with the World Cup will put more pressure on Comcast to add the 24-hour sports net. With both the U.S. — and Mexico, whose matches were popular among Univision’s viewers — bounced from the tourney, the soccer fever in America will likely cool from here on out.

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