Telemundo Deportes’ struggles during the coronavirus pandemic are not unlike those faced by other sports broadcasters in the U.S.
The Spanish-language channel no longer has a slate of marquee English Premier League games to offer its audience.
In response, it has launched two short-form digital series during the health crisis – “Quarantine Confessions” and “Ask Me Anything” – featuring in-house talent, influencers, and athletes as a means to entertain fans at home. Segments from the shows will also be played on linear television, Ray Warren, president of Telemundo Deportes, said.
Telemundo’s weekly linear sports programming, traditionally a mix of live sports and in-studio programming, now consists of English Premier League match replays and remote broadcasts of flagship shows like “Titulares Y Mas” on-air five nights a week. The program, focused on both sports and pop-culture news, will feature NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and CONMEBOL President Alejandro Dominguez this month.
“We’re trying to make news where there’s no sports news really,” Warren said. “So we’re amping up our interviews and creating some digital content that is a lot of fun.”
Telemundo’s current sports offerings lean heavily on soccer – buoyed by NBC’s media deal with the EPL and the network’s own agreement with FIFA to televise the men’s and women’s World Cup in the U.S. in Spanish through 2026. Fox holds the English language rights to the FIFA tournaments.
Telemundo’s viewership of replayed English Premier League matches is down about 15% since mid-March. NBC Universo – the other Spanish-language cable offering from parent company NBCUniversal – is down 50% over the same period.
Telemundo did not disclose overall ratings on its network.
This summer, Telemundo was set to broadcast the 2020 Tokyo Olympics before the games were postponed. The network was also in negotiations to broadcast the 2020 Copa America tournament and will re-enter conversations with CONMEBOL at a later date. The competition was suspended by CONMEBOL on March 17.
“We think the Copa America, second to the World Cup, is the greatest soccer tournament for the Hispanic community,” Warren said. “We had it in 2019, and we were in conversations in 2020.”
When sports do return, Telemundo will look at other parts of the NBC Sports portfolio with an eye on adding more live programming the company believes may resonate with its Hispanic audience.
There will be celebrations around the sports industry when live games return, Warren said. But it may be a muted one if only hundreds of fans show up to stadiums and are separated in the stands.
“I feel better about Copa America being gigantic in June or July of 2021 than what will happen in August of 2020,” he said.
Advertisers that purchased linear and digital assets from Telemundo for sporting events in June through September continue holding on to ad buys to see when games do, in fact, resume, according to the network.
“I think right now is a really tough time for advertisers and for us,” Warren said. “We’re hoping that people [leagues] that have to make decisions get to make them. But I think everyone is saying it has to be a safe and healthy environment”