(From our Q2 2012 Print Issue)

The Olympic Games are probably the biggest sporting event in the world, and media powerhouses are vying for the best coverage and the biggest audiences. The problem is, the ratings have never been very impressive, at least for the U.S. Hispanic networks.

According to Nielsen, during the 17-day Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008, the Telemundo Network averaged 1.1 million viewers. For the Tigres vs. Santos match in the 2011 Futbol Liga Mexicana, the network drew 2.3, more than double. And that’s low, compared to Univision’s broadcast of the soccer game between Argentina and Mexico in the 2010 World Cup, which attracted 9.36 million viewers.

On the other side of the spectrum are the Latino viewers who might be interested in the Olympic Games but don’t tune in to Spanish TV. For instance, during the Beijing games NBC, Telemundo’s sister network, drew 2 million Hispanic viewers to their English coverage, out of an average 29.8 million viewers, according to NBC.

But this year the Olympic Games might be a little different for both, NBC and Telemundo, as the networks have increased their cross-promotional opportunities. For instance, during the 2011 NFL season, an event that is mostly ignored by Spanish TV, NBCUniversal featured related content on all its properties, including Telemundo and Mun2.

Telemundo Deportes has also scored many high marks on its own in recent years. It beat rival Univision to acquire the exclusive Spanish-language U.S. media rights to the World Cup across all platforms (except radio) through 2022 (for which it paid a whopping $600 millions), it has the exclusive Spanish-language and media rights for the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifiers, and it renewed popular sports announcer Andres Cantor’s multi-year contract. But its biggest challenge still remains luring Hispanics to watch the Olympic Games.

Telemundo’s coverage of the Beijing games attracted 20% more viewers than its coverage of the Athens games, the first time that the network covered the Olympic Games. This year, in addition to take advantage of NBC’s coverage, Telemundo Deportes plans to produce even more original content as well as add more features to their website and apps. And their star journalist and announcer, Andres Cantor, already traveled to London last Summer to start the one-year count down towards the games. “This is our third time covering the Olympics and it’s going to be our most ambitious,” Jorge Hidalgo, Senior Executive Vice President, Deportes, at Telemundo, tells Portada.

Beyond focusing on teams and athletes from Latin America or on Hispanic-American athletes, Telemundo Deportes aims to present the competitions on its different platforms, but with a distinct Latin flair. “We always want to find our angle, our flavor, the idiosyncrasies that make us uniquely Hispanics identifying as Hispanics. And bring that to a discipline that maybe doesn’t have many Hispanics,” adds Hidalgo.

In addition to their TV coverage and digital presence, Telemundo Deportes is also producing a TV show for Mun2, targeted to the coveted young bicultural Latinos demographic. Mun2 won’t broadcast the competitions, but will have a primetime show featuring the highlights of the events. It’s too early to know more specifics details about this show, such as its name. “We have three potential names but we really haven’t decided,” Hidalgo says.

At the time of this writing, Telemundo’s biggest rival, Univision, hadn’t announced major plans to cover the games, although there are two new elements that might give it an edge. The first is David Neal, the networks Vice President of Production for Sports since last September. He came to Univision precisely from NBC, where he successfully produced nine Olympic Games, among other high profile sporting events. As Executive Vice President of NBC Olympics, he won a Peabody, three primetime Emmys and four Sports Emmy awards.

The other is Univision Deportes, a standalone sports network that Univision has announced will go live before the Summer, and which could provide another platform to boost its Olympic coverage. Univision declined to comment for this article.

A third player going after a Latino audience for its Olympic Games coverage is ESPN Deportes, which will start its 100 day countdown on April 18th. Rodolfo Martinez, VP of production for ESPN Deportes and ESPN International, who led ESPN production of Beijing’s games in 2008, expects more content across all its platforms. ESPN will have sets across from the Olympic Stadium and, on top of producing original reporting, some of its regular programming will be taped in London.

In addition to attracting audiences, media companies also vie to attract advertisers and sponsors. None of the people contacted for this article offered any specific numbers, but Fernando Rodriguez, Terra USA CEO, conceded that this Olympic Games have already generated the biggest income for the company. “Our sponsors list continues to grow,” Rodriguez says.

This is in part because Terra Latin America has the exclusive rights for internet and mobile coverage for the whole Latin American region, and although Terra USA doesn’t have the same rights for the Hispanic US market, it’s taking advantage of the studios and resources that Terra Latin America already has in place.

Rodriguez acknowledges the duality of the Hispanic-American audiences. While Terra Latin America has the advantage of catering specific competitions or athletes for specific countries, Latinos in the U.S. might have divided alliances and interests. Still, Rodriguez is optimistic. “We are confident that we’ll achieve a new benchmark in terms of audiences. We’re shooting to attract 100 million users to join the celebration,” Rodriguez adds.

Investing in Programming
Just as Telemundo, the 2012 London Olympics is the third Olympic Games that Terra covers; and just as Telemundo, despite achieving lower ratings than with other events, like soccer matches, they continue to invest more in programming and multi-platform coverage of the Olympic Games. Telemundo reported a 20% audience increase from Athens to Beijing, and maybe it’ll grow even more for the London games. The census showed a big increase in the numbers of young acculturated Latinos who might make a difference in their ratings. That is, if they don’t tune in to NBC to watch it in English.


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