TV’s home for soccer is kicking the snot out of the competition — and you didn’t even realize it.
Univision Deportes, the fast-growing sports division and part of the largest Spanish-language network in America, continues to thrive in the ratings while adding coveted new properties — all during an era where other sports channels are struggling. Notably, Univision Deportes Network has garnered the most Major League Soccer viewers in America so far in 2017, outpacing the likes of ESPN and Fox Sports. Impressively, it’s ranked in the top five among all sports networks in overall viewership during each of the last 16 months.
The approach is simple: Univision Deportes went all-in to air as many soccer games and secure the rights to as many soccer leagues as possible.
“We’re in the business of becoming the home of soccer and super-serving the audience, regardless of language,” Univision Deportes President Juan Carlos Rodriguez told the Daily News. “We got the most appealing soccer rights available in the market for our audience.”
The media giant’s national sports channel, the Univision Deportes Network, currently boasts a whopping 40% more viewers during primetime hours than all the rest of the Spanish-language channels in America combined, according to Nielsen.
And it’s more than holding its own against English-language competitors, too.
The impressive portfolio of sports broadcasting rights that the Univision Deportes owns currently includes the MLS, the U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Teams, 16 of the 18 teams in Mexico’s Liga MX and the Mexican National team, among many others.
It’s also set to start airing the top leagues in Europe, including the UEFA Champions League, in 2018, meaning fan-favorite clubs like FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Juventus will soon join the Univision airwaves.
“He who owns the rights will survive. We are pretty sharp into investing in long-term rights or the future of the company,” Rodriguez said. “Live events are always rating higher than studio shows.”
Univision Deportes also launched its own radio network, Univision Deportes Radio, earlier this year to further expand its brand and give viewers a way to tune into their teams when they’re not home.
In addition to live games, both the TV and radio components feature studio shows to discuss soccer, as well as other pro sports leagues like the MLB, NFL and NBA. All of this accompanies a comprehensive digital channel that includes the Univision Deportes website and apps.
Rodriguez says they’ve been very practical in only acquiring rights to leagues where they’ll be able to broadcast games without overlapping some of their other scheduled live events.
That’s why they don’t plan on purchasing the ability to air leagues like NCAA football, since the weekly Saturday night games conflict with a busy period on the soccer schedule.
With soccer continuing to grow in popularity in the United States, that seems to be a good approach.
“Today we are in a very good position,” Rodriguez said. “The next few years we’ll be very solidly growing.”