Luis Miguel Echegaray Moves the Needle for Sports Illustrated’s ‘Planet Fútbol’
What: Sports Illustrated's / Planet Fútbol's Luis Miguel Echegaray brings a fresh new voice to the company's sports coverage.
Why it matters: As head of Latino / Spanish content at Sports Illustrated, Luis Miguel Echegaray is looking to grow SI.com's audience, making the website and TV shows a "go to" spot for Hispanic sports fans.
Born in London, the 37-year-old Peruvian had dreams of acting in William Shakespeare-inspired dramas, not analyzing José Mourinho’s latest drama at Manchester United (@ManUtd). And yet, after making a career change from acting to journalism, Echegaray's journey has landed him on Planet Fútbol (@si_soccer).
"The acting and writing world is very inconsistent, I wasn't leaving a Wall Street job or anything like that," said Echegaray. "But it was scary, especially trying to build a life with my wife. Luckily, it became the right move, and honestly, it's the best move and gamble I ever made."
Echegaray currently co-hosts Sports Illustrated's Planet Fútbol television show, along with long-time SI.com soccer analyst Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl), adding a Hispanic perspective to go along with Wahl’s vast journalistic experience.
Reporting is different than engagement. Engagement is what is going to create opportunities to tell meaningful stories that truly move the conversation forward.
Launched in 2014 as a SI.com vertical platform, PlanetFutbol.com is a Sports Illustrated's stand-alone website, modeled after The MMQB (@theMMQB) and Extra Mustard (@SI_ExtraMustard), aimed at covering soccer year-round. Planet Fútbol continued its growth, evolving into a television show airing on Amazon Prime (@PrimeVideo), part of the sports website's new partnership with Amazon’s SI TV Channel.
Echegaray, looking for a career change, in 2013, wanted to capitalize on both his love of the arts and soccer as he started on his new career adventure. He wrote, directed, and narrated a short-film titled The Fall Kings, focusing on Martin Luther King Jr. High School, a successful New York City high school soccer team made up entirely of immigrant children. Echegaray credits The Fall Kings for helping him get into The Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism (@newmarkjschool) at the City University of New York (@CUNY).
"Soccer was always a big part of my life," said Echegaray. "I played it at a pretty high level, I actually coached it for a long time, so I wanted to mix both worlds; storytelling, film-making, and reporting. I didn't know anything about journalism and [The Fall Kings] became my ticket to C.U.N.Y. and C.U.N.Y. pretty much changed my life, just learning about the aspect of storytelling and reporting and journalism.”
Echegaray credits his acting background for giving him an advantage, as he adjusted to life in graduate school. Despite being a journalistic newbie, Echegaray quickly noticed that he managed to achieve a better rapport with people he interviewed compared to his classmates, noting that journalists, ironically, are not great communicators when it comes to human interaction.
"It's been a really great asset for me to be able to empathize, and empathy is the keyword, where I try and think about my projects and what I do, from a more human perspective as opposed to just reporting," said Echegaray. "Reporting is different than engagement. Engagement is what is going to create opportunities to tell meaningful stories that truly move the conversation forward. And in this day in age, with what's happening with the world right now, it's so important to not just report but create meaningful engagement. And that's where I think the acting really helped me."
Graduate school opened up opportunities for Echegaray, landing gigs with VICE HBO, and The Guardian U.S. (@GuardianUS), Newsweek (@Newsweek), Univision (@Univision), and Remezcla (@REMEZCLA). In 2017, he was hired as head of Latino / Spanish content at Sports Illustrated.
"Not only am I co-hosting a show with my friend and great reporter, Grant Wahl, but what I'm really doing that makes me valuable is that we are trying try grow the Latino audience,” said Echegaray. "Not just grow it but make Sports Illustrated a place where the Hispanic audience in the U.S. feels like we are representing them. We are talking about sports, not just from a sports perspective, but from a cultural perspective.”
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Other broadcasting companies and websites are also attempting to capture that cultural point-of-view, with English-speaking sports coverage in the U.S. adding bilingual talent, in recent years.
Fox Sports (@FOXSports), who owned the English-language rights to the 2018 Russia World Cup, added Fernando Fiore (@FernandoFiore), formerly of Univision's highly popular Republica Deportiva (@RepDeportiva), to host the FIFA World Cup Tonight show, along with Kate Abdo (@kate_abdo). Fox Sports also added Jorge Perez-Navarro (@jpereznavarro), formerly of Univision and ESPN Deportes, to do play-by-play English commentary, bringing a Hispanic flair to the commentary booth. Echegaray also points to ESPN Deportes' (@ESPNdeportes) Herculez Gomez (@herculezg), Sebastian Salazar (@SebiSalazarFUT), and Max Bretos (@mbretosESPN) as other examples of Latinos making waves in the industry.
And while Echegaray loves the fact very talented people are receiving these opportunities, he believes in pushing further, giving way to even more voices.
"We're moving the needle, there is no denying that, but there is still a long way to go," said Echegaray. "I think that in order for us to make a statement we need more women in the industry. I think we need more Latinas, not just reporting but also being in positions of decision-making. I do think we are making progress, it's great to see but I want more, and I want more women because I really believe there are so many amazing female voices that have yet to be heard."