Univision has put a big one in the back of the net, scoring the Spanish-language TV and digital rights in the U.S. to Mexican national soccer team matches, leading up to the 2014 World Cup.
With the deal, Univision secured the rights to Mexico's World Cup qualifying matches and international friendlies, which have been televised by Telemundo over the past decade.
One source valued the deal at north of $50 million, while another pegged it as much as $75 million. Telemundo's expiring contract was said to be worth about $25 million. Univision declined to comment on the value of the agreement.
The pact, which Univision announced during its upfront presentation to advertisers in Manhattan on May 20, comes just three weeks ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup from South Africa, to which the company holds the Spanish-language rights to the 64-match tourney.
Telemundo has drawn some of its biggest audiences ever with its match coverage of the Mexican team, nicknamed "El Tri." The NBC Universal broadcast network used its presentation of the World Cup qualifier between Mexico and the U.S. last August from Mexico City and another El Tri game versus Honduras as a springboard to upping the sports ante for its cable cousin, bicultural Latino service mun2, which simulcast the matches in English.
Subsequently, the cable network officially established mun 2 Sports as a programming destination that includes a package of Saturday night matches from Futbol Liga Mexicana, the nation's top pro circuit, as well as boxing and mixed martial arts fare, plus news and highlights shows.
"We had some conversations to retain the games, but did not reach an agreement for the renewal of our rights for MNT," said a Telemundo spokeswoman. "We wish the team the best and look forward to expanding our sports offering in other directions."
Telemundo is winding down its coverage with El Tri, which has embarked on an eight-match preparatory tour before the World Cup that concludes on June 3 in Brussels. The broadcaster also has a deal covering the regular-season and playoff home matches of six top Mexican league teams.
Negotiations for the Mexican national team deal were evidently concluded around mid-day on May 20, just hours before Univision conducted its upfront -- too late for inclusion within the preliminary programming schedule information packages disseminated to the press.
"Outside of the FIFA World Cup, the Mexican National Soccer Team is the premiere soccer attraction for U.S. Hispanic audiences," said Cesar Conde, president of the Univision Networks," in a statement. "This acquisition solidifies Univision's position as the premiere provider of soccer programming in the United States and we are thrilled to be able to offer the best soccer content to our loyal audiences across our television, video-on-demand, online and mobile platforms."
At the moment, plans for El Tri extend only to the World Cup, which kicks off on June 11 with the team taking on the host nation in the tourney's opener. Going forward, a Univision spokeswoman said the "current plans call for streaming all the games."
As part of $325 million agreement with futbol's international governing body, Univision holds the U.S. Spanish-language rights to the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups, the FIFA 2013 Confederations Cup, the FIFA Under-20 World Championships, FIFA Under-17 World Championships and the FIFA Women's World Cup in 2011.
Unvision also televises soccer games involving the U.S. men's national team, the CONCACAF Gold Cup, home games of six Futbol Liga Mexican teams, CONCACAF Champions' League, Major League Soccer and SuperLiga.