In 2008, ESPN and ABC Sports earned much praise for its coverage of the EURO 2008, providing an unprecedented programming line-up for an entire month.
The event proved to be very popular among American audiences. More than 41 million viewers in the United States tuned into live UEFA EURO 2008 matches on ESPN networks. It also generated the biggest audience for ESPN Deportes, including the final between Germany and Spain. Even today, it ranks as the second highest-rated telecast ever on the Spanish-language network.
Four years later, the European Football Championship returns and ESPN, Inc., is offering unprecedented coverage of the three-week tournament through its multimedia platforms such as ESPN Deportes, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes Radio and ESPN Mobile TV. On linear television, ESPN Deportes will provide 106 hours of programming in addition to 95 combined hours of live coverage on ESPN and ESPN2. The Spanish-language network will feature 27 live matches and four tape-delayed telecasts on concurrent match windows, complemented by comprehensive daily news and information coverage around each match.
Freddy Rolon, ESPN Deportes’ VP of programming, sat down with Front Row to discuss the EURO 2012 schedule and the strategy behind its efforts to deepen the brand’s relationship with the U.S. Hispanic sports fan.
FR: ESPN Deportes plans a 38 percent increase in EURO 2012 coverage versus 2008 (106 hours in 2012 versus 77 in 2008). Can you expand on the strategy and thinking behind this increased commitment?
Rolon: Overall our increased coverage across platforms is an acknowledgment that just telecasting the event is not good enough. While the matches are the focal point of our coverage, our fans have come to expect more.
We know fans will consume the game in Spanish on ESPN Deportes, ESPN Deportes Radio and ESPN3 but we’ve also seen that our fans have reacted extremely well to our increases in news and information in the past; our new studio show ESPN Futbol Center, which offers increased coverage around weekend futbol, consistently keeps fans engaged with ESPN Deportes after the matches are over.
The EURO is such a big event for our audience that we want to make sure we offer them the opportunity to stay engaged with ESPN Deportes as long as possible. Prior to the game,they can watch ESPN Deportes to get a pregame analysis, during the game they’ll check on tweets from our talent and join the chat on ESPNDeportes.com and after the game they can stick around to watch our in-depth analysis of the game on Fuera De Juego or call-in to our ESPN Deportes Radio shows.
FR: What are the differences and similarities of coverage on ESPN Deportes versus ESPN English-language networks?
Rolon: There are the obvious differences in the cadence and pace of the play-by-play and color analysis but in reality our approaches are very similar between languages; we serve the sports fan in English and Spanish with the most authentic and researched coverage of futbol out there and we do so on an ever-increasing number of platforms.
A difference in coverage that is less obvious is that ESPN Deportes has multiple shows that have ongoing “conversations” about futbol with our fans, whether it’s Fuera De Juego, Jorge Ramos y Su Banda or Futbol Picante. Fans are familiar with our talent and their style and as a network we can extend that affinity and brand equity they’ve built up to our coverage of the EURO.
FR: Over the past year, ESPN has intensified its effort to serve the Hispanic fan. How will ESPN Deportes leverage the EUROs to further deepen its relationship with this audience?
Rolon: We recognize that the Hispanic sports fan consumes ESPN media in both English and Spanish. Over the past few months, we’ve been fine-tuning and in some cases revamping our approach to the English dominant and Bi-lingual Hispanic audience across our platforms. There is a great opportunity for growth on the English language side and I’m excited about some of the projects we are working on.
In the meantime, the EURO gives us an opportunity to continue to reach out to this audience. We want Hispanics to trust that ESPN will provide them with the passion, insight and urgency they expect in which ever language they are most comfortable, English or Spanish. I’d suggest watching the coverage of the Spain games to see the direction we are moving towards.