LOWDOWN ON THE UPFRONT: ESPN Deportes Reloads

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NEW YORK -- True to its upfront presentation theme, ESPN Deportes “reloaded” media buyers with information about its multimedia platforms, programming initiatives old and new, and revealed early Nielsen returns.

During the event, held Wednesday evening at Manhattan’s Gotham Hall, executives preached the sports giant’s corporate multiplatform creed, emphasizing that ESPN Deportes was the only player in the Spanish-language sports space that could deliver via TV; online; the ESPN Deports Radio network; the ESPN Deportes La Revista magazine that is available through subscription and on the newsstand; ESPN Deportes Mobile; and through "en vivo" (grass roots) initiatives.

ESPN Deportes became rated by the Nielsen Homevideo Index Hispanic, which estimates viewing in the 12.1 million U.S. Hispanic households, April 28. During its initial two-week period through May 11, ESPN Deportes executives said the network claimed the top five and 15 of the first 20 sports news and information shows, largely on the strength of SportsCenter and a Mexican soccer recap show.

The measurement company’s current census puts ESPN Deportes’ total universe at 6.4 million homes, 3.4 million of which are Hispanic households. Jeff Siegel, senior vice president of specialized sales and marketing for ESPN Deportes, told Multichannel News that through projections from cable affiliates the net’s Latino household base actually total 4.2 million. By next year’s upfront, ESPN Deportes is expected to be in between 4 million and 4.1 million Hispanic households by Nielsen’s count, he said.

ESPN Deportes Radio, which recently added a station in Milwaukee to lift its affiliate roster to 26 and reach to 43% of the nation, expects to launch in Miami soon. Moreover, a sports-talk radio show from ESPN Deportes Radio studios in Miami will be simulcast (think ESPN2’s Mike & Mike in the Morning, whose Mike Greenberg was one of the event’s hosts) on the network this fall.

Online, ESPNDeportes.com recorded 81% growth amog unique users in 2007 and its video download service prompted 20 million views, a 150% increase over 2006. Podcasts, five to eight entries daily, also proved popular, with more than 1 million downloads on iTunes in 2007.

On the programming side, ESPN Deportes announced that Dream Job: El Reportero II, will debut this fall, with the winner of this season’s reality competition grabbing a top job for the network’s coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup from South Africa.

The first edition winner, Mauricio Pedroza of San Luis de Potosi, Mexico, now serves as a key SportsCenter reporter. 

General manager Lino Garcia said ESPN Deportes is developing an Around The Horn-type show. He said after the presentation that the weekday show would feature top Hispanic print reporters from Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Mexico and Puerto Rico.

As to boxing, the upfront was home to a match between junior-welterweight Luis Rodríguez and NABF light welterweight champion, Francisco Figueroa that aired on ESPN Deportes and ESPN2 at 9 p.m. (ET). Next February, ESPN Deportes will air bouts twice weekly on Miércoles and Viernes de Combate, preceded by a new studio show.

On the baseball beat, ESPN Deportes, which televised the Caribbean Series for the first time in 2008, inked a three-year renewal pact through 2011. Gracia said it was a good complement to Deportes winter ball coverage from Mexico, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.

Speaking of that top baseball nation, Rumbo a las Mayores is scheduled to air this fall, Garcia said the 90-minute special chronicles the voyage of a group of Dominican-born, Major League Baseball aspirants and their road toward trying to break into the bigs. Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz plays a feature role in the film,

The network will also premiere Chavez, a docu-style film about the great Mexican boxer, Julio Cesar Chavez. The film, which made its theatrical bow during the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival, will be part of the network’s Hispanic Heritage Month celebration, running from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15.

American football will also be front and center during that period. The ESPN Deportes La Revista publication will feature an NFL preview, while the festivities kick off with the Sept. 15 Monday Night Football game in Dallas, where the Cowboys will host the Philadelphia Eagles. ESPN Deportes telecasts will feature the main network’s MNF graphics package, while ESPN’s on-air team will “twice throw” the game to their Deportes counterparts.

The network will also air NFL 101, a pigskin primer to bring Spanish-language viewers up to speed on American football; and Perfiles, profiles of four NFL players during the Hispanic Heritage period.

As for grass roots activities, ESPN Deportes plans to pack a truck, housing a traveling stadium set, a la the NFL Experience, to a number of markets this fall. Those efforts will be complemented by “Chalk Talk,” a series of MNF luncheons in 13 different game markets

Siegel said that among the NFL-related sponsorship opportunities available are: a presenting sponsor for all the Hispanic Heritage activities, which will extend ESPN-wide; one for Perfiles; another for NFL 101; and a companion to Ruth Chris Steakhouse, which has inked a renewal pact, for the “Chalk Talk” sessions.

He also told media buyers the network is seeking sponsors for the “ESPN Deportes Update: segments that appear on the Anglo-versions of SportsCenter.

ESPN Deportes also used the presentation as a forum to announce the launch of an affiliate Web site. There, Deportes affiliates can access research and program information and learn about client success stories working with the network

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