The announcement last week that Telemundo outbid Univision for the Spanish-language U.S. media rights to FIFA’s 2018 and 2022 World Cup soccer tournaments might have taken many by surprise, but it was the culmination of a nail-biting, three-day stay in Zurich for four top NBCU and Telemundo executives. Lauren Zalaznick, chairman of NBC Universal entertainment & digital networks; Gary Zenkel, evp of strategic partnerships at NBC Sports; Jorge Hidalgo, senior evp of Telemundo Sports and the recently appointed President of Telemundo Emilio Romano all flew to Switzerland last week to present a joint bid and then patiently wait for the news.

According to people with knowledge of the bidding process, securing FIFA rights for Telemundo was a top priority for NBCU, which actually launched a joint bid for Telemundo and NBC Sports, but ended up losing the English-language media rights to Fox Sports Media Group. (The previous holder of these rights was ABC/ESPN.)

“The company was focused on securing the rights for Telemundo, given the growing importance of U.S. Hispanic] audiences and the ratings growth it has experienced of late,” a person close to the negotiations told Portada.

Hefty $600 million

Neither NBCU nor FIFA disclosed financial details, but Reuters reported Friday that Telemundo paid a hefty $600 million for its FIFA rights, an amount that dwarfs the $325 million Univision paid in 2005 for similar FIFA rights from 2007 to 2014. [The 2014 World Cup, which will take place in Brazil, will be the last under Univision’s current deal.]

Telemundo’s exclusive Spanish-language media rights to FIFA World Cup Soccer include all platform media rights (excluding radio) starting in 2015, with the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada.

In 2005, in what FIFA called “the biggest TV deal in a single country in FIFA’s history,” Univision paid a reported $325 million for World Cup Spanish-language TV rights in the U.S. from 2007 to 2014 while ABCESPN paid $100 million for the rights package in English.

In a statement, a Univision spokesperson thanked FIFA for the opportunity to participate in the bidding, adding that: “We remain committed to prudently evaluating content investments to ensure that we dedicate our resources toward an optimum mix of the news, sports and entertainment programming our audiences love most.”

As for Telemundo, the recently acquired FIFA media rights are not only unprecedented, but represent a great asset that will give the company wider margin to negotiate advertising deals and even higher retransmission fees from the nation’s largest MSO’s. They also have the potential to transform the company in terms of the resources, marketing and coverage the games demand.

Read Portada’s Special Supplement about the 2010 Soccer World Cup and Hispanic Marketing.


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