Under a multimedia rights extension, ESPN will vastly expand its coverage of Mexico’s leading soccer league and cup competition, including its initial English-language presentations of that nation’s club matches in the U.S.
ESPN’s deal with Azteca América encompasses rights to Liga MX, México’s top national soccer league, and Copa MX, its premier football cup competition, in the States through 2015.
The agreement, financial terms of which were not disclosed, enhances ESPN’s multiplatform coverage of those soccer properties by placing, for the first time, Mexican club matches on ESPN2 and ESPNEWS, while adding more Spanish-language games on ESPN Deportes, which has been sublicensing Liga MX matches through Azteca since 2006. Moreover, the pact calls for extensive highlights across ESPN’s English-language and Spanish-language studio programming and digital platforms.
The new accord follows ESPN’s recent alliance with Univision Deportes, the sports arm of the U.S. Spanish-language media leader, enabling the worldwide leader to televise Mexico men's national team matches in English through 2014.
Similarly, the extension with Azteca America is aimed at providing U.S.-based fans of Mexican futbol more opportunities to experience the action on ESPN’s English- and Spanish-language platforms. ESPN officials say that as the Hispanic market continues to evolve and as the league gains popularity in the U.S., the programmer wants to maximize LigaMX content across platforms, while giving fans the option to watch some of the most-anticipated matches in English.
Year-to-date, ESPN Deportes’ live coverage of Liga MX matches has grown 36% to a 1.5 Hispanic household rating average, according to Nielsen data. The Feb. 17 match between Puebla and Guadalajara netted a 2.8 Hispanic coverage rating, translating into 150,000 homes, making it the most-watched Liga MX game on ESPN Deportes since 2009.
Through the remainder of the 2013 season, ESPN2 and ESPNEWS will air Liga MX matches featuring such sides as Chivas del Guadalajara, Club América, Cruz Azul and Pumas. English-language coverage kicks off Friday, March 8, with Morelia vs. America on ESPNEWS at 8:30 p.m. (ET), with Liga MX action continuing on the service the following day when Cruz Azul meets Jaguares at 6 p.m., and concludes March 10, at that time with Puebla vs. UNAM Pumas. ESPN2’s first Liga MX presentation is scheduled for March 29, at 9:30 p.m. with Moriela vs. Atlante. All told, ESPN2 and ESPNews will air seven and four Liga MX matches, respectively, this season.
The agreement also grants ESPN Deportes access to an expanded slate of Liga MX matches -- 60 in the current campaign -- as well continued broad coverage of Copa MX matches. Both properties will also be carried on ESPN Deportes+, the ESPN3 broadband extension available on ESPNdeportes.com. ESPN3, the live multiscreen sports network available to 83 million homes online at WatchESPN.com, smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app and through ESPN on Xbox LIVE to Gold members, will carry select Liga MX games in English and Spanish, as well as CopaMX games in Spanish.
“Liga MX has become one of the most competitive and popular soccer leagues in Latin America with a growing number of Mexican and American star players,” said Freddy Rolón, vice president of programming and business development for ESPN Deportes. “Adding more club matches in both languages allows us a greater opportunity to reach the widest possible audience while strengthening our commitment to serve U.S. Hispanic fans across all of our platforms.”
Liga MX comprises 18 first division clubs. In 2011, the circuit changed its format to two tournaments per seasons: The Apertura (opening), which starts in the summer, and the Clausura (closing) played through the winter.
The Copa MX is México’s top soccer cup competition and includes the top first and second division clubs. Formerly known as the Copa Tower and Copa Eliminatoria, the event went on hiatus from 1997 to 2012, when it was revived by the Liga MX. The tournament is now played twice a year: once in the spring and once in the fall. Copa MX features 14 first division clubs– that are not part of the CONCACAF Champions League– and 14 from the Ascenso MX, México’s second division.
With the renewal ESPN Deportes will add 34 Liga MX matches -- 17 for the Apertura and 17 for Clausura. ESPN Deportes will also continue offering coverage of CopaMX-- exclusive rights to at least 56 regular-season matches, non-exclusive rights to four quarterfinals, the semifinals and the final match per tournament.
The agreement grants ESPN rights to more Liga MX home games of clubs Cruz Azul, Jaguares, Monarcas, Morelia, and Puebla. The Copa MX coverage will continue on ESPN Deportes with matches featuring América, Chivas, Cruz Azul, Pumas, Monterrey, Toluca, Tigres, Morelia, Jaguares and Santos.