It’s Telemundo’s world and we’re all just watching soccer in it. Lots and lots of soccer. The Spanish-language network is leading the way in showing "the beautiful game" to millions of viewers with the help of outstanding on-air talent and state-of-the-art studios located in west Miami-Dade. Buoyed by its success covering the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, the network, which is owned by Comcast NBCUniversal, finds itself smack in the middle of the perfect storm of fútbol this summer — covering both the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France and the 2019 Copa América in Brazil.
The wall-to-wall soccer coverage has been dubbed #TheSummerofSoccer, and so far it’s been a ratings behemoth. “Telemundo soccer reaches seven million viewers through Comcast,” says Eli Velazquez, executive vice president of sports content for Telemundo Enterprises. “This summer alone, we have hundreds of staffers in Paris covering the Women’s World Cup and another 120 staffers working in Brazil for the Copa América — with Telemundo Miami being the central hub.”
The Telemundo headquarters houses a gorgeous 360 studio with moving cameras, wall-size monitors, and augmented reality, which allows on-air hosts to interact with viewers with virtual-reality technology. Black dots sprawled across the studio’s ceiling allows the augmented-reality piece to stay static while a camera attached to a jib moves freely about the studio, creating a virtual-reality hologram. The result is holographic stats, images, and effects dancing about the screen, enhancing the overall viewer experience.
It’s these kinds of modern viewer-friendly technologies, along with the network's digital outreach, that has turned Telemundo into a fútbol-consuming juggernaut.
More than six million viewers tuned in to Telemundo to watch the first three days of the Copa América last week, with Saturday's Colombia-Argentina match reaching a total audience delivery average of 1.64 million viewers. On the digital side, the match became the most-streamed Copa América match to date, with 142,000 live streams. “Digital remains a huge part of our viewership,” Velazquez says.
Then there’s the Women’s World Cup, which continues to rise in popularity in America and, with Telemundo’s help, is getting a boost in exposure. Last Sunday’s match between the United States and Chile reached more than 1.6 million viewers, becoming the second-most-watched Women’s World Cup match in Spanish-language history. And when the U.S. women's team score a World Cup record 13 goals against Thailand a week earlier, 1.1 million viewers tuned in to watch the onslaught of goals.
Telemundo has been pushing the importance of supporting the women’s squad, which is not only evident in the gargantuan posters of stars Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd adorning the front of the Telemundo headquarters, but also with hiring the first woman to cover the men’s World Cup — Viviana Vila — in 2018. “The exposure of the U.S. women’s team to so many viewers is important for the sport,” Vila says. So many teams outside the States have players who are semiprofessionals and are forced to work jobs on the side and, in some cases, choose between a day job and playing for their national team for little money. The popularity of the Woman’s World Cup is helping countries understand the importance of investing in their teams’ success, Vila points out.
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“I’m a huge proponent of the Women’s World Cup,” says former Argentina National Team player Juan Pablo Sorin, who does color commentary for Copa América matches on Telemundo. “It’s important that they get major exposure, because we’re seeing the growth of the game for women in places like Chile, Argentina, and others.”
It's all in the demographics, as Telemundo was ranked first in adults aged 13 to 34 tuning into the Copa América's opening match in primetime last Friday. Viewers across Telemundo, TelemundoDeportes.com, the Telemundo Deportes app, and the NBC Sports app are tuning in to catch the Summer of Soccer in droves.
"Eighty percent of Hispanic viewers are consuming soccer," Velazquez says. "Telemundo is covering over 78 games in 31 dates across two continents. For us, it's always been all about the growth of the game and coverage."