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Univision Hopes Spanish-Language Super Bowl Scores New Points With NFL

TelevisaUnivision is running more than 90 hours of new programming leading up to its airing Sunday of a Spanish-language telecast of Super Bowl LVIII. Executives hope the NFL may give the company a few more.

The Spanish-language media giant, created via an early 2022 merger between Univision Holdings and Groupo Televisa valued at $4.8 billion, has long shown the annual NFL extravaganza in Mexico, This year, however, it has secured U.S. rights to run a Spanish-language version of the game. And it’s betting a successful telecast will get noticed by the sports league whose games continue to win big linear audiences even as more TV viewers move to streaming.

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U.S. rights to NFL games are sewn up for years in multi-billion dollar deals with Paramount Global, Fox Corp., NBCUniversal, Disney and Amazon. But the league has proven adept at carving out ways to reach new crowds. Univision can’t help but think the Super Bowl telecast can get something started. “Maybe we have more access. Maybe we have a weekly show. Maybe we have a few games a year that are circumscribed around specific things,” says Olek Loewenstein, president of global sports at the company’s Univision operation, during an interview. “I think that might be able to work.”

Most of the NFL’s English-language partners have outlets for Spanish-language broadcasts, such as ESPN Deportes and Fox Deportes. But the league is considering “how we can continue to serve our fans that want to engage in a Spanish-language format,” says Hans Schroder, chief operating officer of NFL Media, during an interview. “We are going to look for opportunities where we can do more in this space, and be very selective but very smart,” he says.

On a typical Sunday, the Univision network in the U.S. might show Jorge Ramos’ Sunday news program or a series like “Como dice el dicho.” This weekend, the network’s long-running “Despierta America” will offer a bespoke program focused on the big event, and there will be several hours of pre-game coverage. “We are not doing the Super Bowl in Spanish,” says Loewentein. “We are doing the Super Bowl in culture.”

The network has a separate ad-sales process from CBS, and has been seeking $225,000  to $250,00 for a 30-second spot in its Super Bowl broadcast. Some big advertisers, such as Toyota and Nissan, are creating bespoke commercials that will appear only on Univision — and in Spanish, not English. Nissan’s Univision Super Bowl ad features “Saturday Night Live” cast member Marcello Hernandez, who is of Cuban and Dominican descent, along with Mexican-American band Grupo Frontera. The ad debuted on a recent broadcast of “Despierta America.”

“Certain clients are using us differently, seeking a cultural connection,” says John Kozack, TelevisaUnivision’s executive vice president of multimedia sales, in an interview. “We have seen some new-business advertisers that we haven’t worked with before that are going to launch in Super Bowl.” The company says all Super Bowl inventory has sold out, and executives believe they have been able to raise the price of a 30-second ad in a Spanish-language broadcast well above that secured by the English-language media companies in the past. Among those marketers sponsoring the telecast are  TurboTax, Totino’s and Verizon, which are running ads in Spanish, and Audi, BetMGM and Experian.

Consumer-credit reporter Experian has used Univision research to find better ways to appeal to its viewership, says Steve Hartmann, the company’s vice president of consumer marketing. The network really helped us break into the Hispanic market,” he says.  Its Super Bowl broadcast should bring new reach among that audience.

Key to the endeavor, says Lowenstein, is making sure the Big Game and the broadcast appeal to a wide selection of viewers. The Spanish-speaking audience “is not a monolith,” he says. “The reality is there are Mexicans, there are Venezuelans, there are Colombians. Some of those nationalities have a better affiliation with sport and others less. We need to navigate that.’ Super Bowl programs also need to appeal to sports fans as well as family members who may not be as familiar with NFL play.

“I think this is successful if this is the most-watched Spanish-language Super Bowl in history,” says Loewenstein. “If we can do that…”

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