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TheStreet Open House

Money Talks in Spanish During U.S.-Televised World Cup

PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- In U.S. World Cup broadcast negotiations, the biggest players are speaking Spanish.

It's lovely that ESPN, ESPN 2 and ABC have seen their World Cup viewership jump by 23% since last year's World Cup, but Spanish-language Univision, is getting the far better end of the bargain. Free to most households via antenna and stocked with on-air talent including Enrique "El Perro" Bermudez, Felix "El Gato" Fernandez and Jesus "El Profe" Bracamontes, and Luis Omar Tapia that makes ESPN's Ian Darke look awfully lonely by comparison, Univision has watched its World Cup viewership soar by 54% since 2010.

ESPN, ESPN 2 and ABC have been averaging roughly 4.1 million viewers per World Cup match this year. Univision? A cool 7 million. This is why ABC and ESPN paid only $100 million for the English-language rights to the 2010 and 2014 installments of the World Cup while Univision shelled out $325 million: Because the Spanish-language portion is where the money is at.

That's balancing out a bit, but not by a whole lot. Fox  (FOXA) paid $425 million for the English-language rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup broadcasts. Comcast (CMCSA), however, snipped the purse strings and let its Telemundo network spend $600 million on the Spanish-language rights to those events. It's money well spent.

World Cup sponsors including McDonald's  (MCD) and Coca-Cola  (KO) go all-out for the World Cup and dedicate big portions of their U.S. marketing budget to network-specific Spanish-language ads. When an advertiser fails to do so -- as Nike discovered with its epic animated ad that's been airing on Univision with awkward subtitles -- it makes the company stand out in a tone-deaf fashion that it may not have intended. That's a lot of revenue to gamble with.

ESPN and ESPN Deportes are generating $50 million a year in revenue from broadcasts of Mexico's Liga MX soccer league. That hasn't prevented Univision, Telemundo, Azteca America and TeleFutura from broadcasting that league's matches for free in Spanish and generating similar revenue of their own. When the Mexican national lost to the U.S. in the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup Final, it was the third-largest Spanish-language television audience in U.S. history. The top two such audiences tuned in for World Cup finals.

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