Univision, NBA Tip Multifaceted Partnership

Includes New Show 'Zona NBA,' Univision Deportes Taking Website Control

The National Basketball Association and Univision Deportes are teaming on a new partnership that will provide content across the U.S. Spanish-language media leader’s platforms, as well as marketing activations around marquee league events.

Under the partnership, financial terms of which were not disclosed, Univision Deportes this week will tip off a customized version of NBA Action, which currently airs on NBA TV, and initiate a one-hour weekly show, Zona NBA, featuring Hispanic-centric pro hoops content, with the 2015 postseason.

The new agreement also features Univision Deportes and the NBA unveiling enhanced co-branded éne•bé•a web and mobile sites, launching in September, that build on éne•bé•a, the league’s first fully integrated Hispanic marketing campaign. 

Marketing activations are also on tap, with grass root activities expected to become part of the media mix around All-Star Weekend, the playoffs and The Finals.

According to the parties, Hispanics currently represent 18% of the NBA’s fan base, outpacing the growth of the U.S. Hispanic population by 38% since 2008. During March and early April, the league is hosting its ninth annual Latin nights (Noches éne•bé•a), the NBA’s commemorative uniform program that recognizes the growing support of NBA fans and players across Latin America and U.S. Hispanic communities.

Bilingual U.S. Latinos consume content in general and NBA fare in particular in both Spanish and English, an attractive combo for the league. “This partnership with Univision is going to further engage our growing Hispanic fan base and serve to broaden the NBA’s appeal across multiple platforms,” said Aldo DiCuffa, the NBA’s senior vice president of programming.

Eric Conrad, vice president of sports programming at Univision, said that dialog took place over the past year in shaping the partnership. “They were very easy discussions based on their objectives to reach more Latino fans with the U.S. Spanish-language media leader and ours, which is to always diversify our portfolio with the right properties.”

Conrad noted that Spanish-language services tend to draw younger viewers overall and that Univision properties connect with the 18-to-49 set, centering around those about 35.

Over the years, NBA clubs have been bolstering their rosters with Hispanic players. DiCuffa said currently there are 17 Latino players in the league, including the Gasol brothers, Memphis’ Marc and Chicago’s Pau, Atlanta’s Al Horford and San Antonio’s Manu Ginobli (pictured), among them. There are also a half-dozen U.S.-born Latinos.

“There is a deep connection with the Latino players,” said DiCuffa. “Hispanic fans identify with these players.”

Cable service Univision Deportes Network will offer fans NBA Action, the weekly basketball show that will be customized in Spanish, beginning on Thursday, March 26. 

Zona NBA will feature a mix of Univision hosts, current and former players and coaches, plus guests. Although its premiere will be simulcast on UniMas and UDN, the cable will be home to encore airings. He said segments “in shorter bursts than the one-hour show format,” will also be made available digitally. 

The show, he said, will begin via remote set-ups during the upcoming postseason.

Conrad noted that the aforementioned players and their teams all will be participating in the playoffs, perhaps in The Finals. With Zona’s position at the venues and around the court, fans will be able to get closer.

“Speaking in-language, the players are more likely to open up and be more personal,” he said. “That’s what our audience wants.”

In a move akin to Turner Sports handling things on the digital side, Univision Deportes will run and administrate the éne•bé•a domestic Spanish-language destinations on the web and mobile sites, which will manifest to fans in September. The properties will proffer the latest basketball news, including blogs by Latino NBA players, extensive video highlights, photo galleries and interactive fan content, among other offerings.

“We will be feeding Univision Deportes content that they will be able to customize for Spanish,” said DiCuffa, noting the sports unit will “produce, create, maintain and host the new web sites,”

The multipronged partnership, which Univision will be trumpeting during its upfront presentations to advertisers, could be a prelude to bigger things to come.

Asked if Univision was looking to further up its game, Conrad replied: "We’re always interested in live sports rights. This is a starting point.”