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The time has come! Every four years, the world comes together to celebrate the greatest soccer sporting event on the planet—the FIFA World Cup tournament. Starting tomorrow, viewers will watch their favorite world-class players take the field on Fox Sports, or on NBCUniversal's Telemundo Deportes for its exclusive Spanish-language broadcast—the network’s World Cup debut.
Americans will miss the USA team this year, but that won't stop people from getting in on all the fun, especially not Telemundo's Spanish-speaking audience who are known to be some of the biggest fans out there when it comes to watching fútbol on TV. "If you think about the Super Bowl, do the Giants have to be in the Super Bowl for me to watch and have a great time?" said Telemundo Deportes President Ray Warren.
"Our audience is looking for that every four-year-celebration of the World Cup, and it's a time when these communities—these entire countries—come together for 30 or so days, until the next four years comes around. It's an important part of life for the Hispanic community," said Warren, whose network reaches around 40 million Hispanic households. In fact, Telemundo Deportes has had countdown clocks to the World Cup around its stations and offices for awhile now that carried the message, "World Cup Ready." But as the tournament approached, Warren upped the ante and changed the slogan to, "World Cup Great."
The network has prepared for more than 1,500 hours of coverage—over 500 on linear TV and 1,000 on various digital platforms, including an immersive virtual reality experience. Viewers will be able to tune into games from the moment they wake up in the morning (depending on where viewers live) until the nightly shows that will recap the action and big stories from the day.
To ensure that the network was living up to its "World Cup Great" slogan, Telemundo sent all of its announcers to report live from Russia. "We are putting as many announcers in as many stadiums as air traffic will allow in Russia," said Warren. "You need to 'smell the smell' and 'feel the field,' experience the weather. And the fans cheering is much more electric when you are in the building. It's two- dimensional [reporting] versus three-dimensional. We couldn't see it any other way. We want to give the fans an authentic experience." One of those analysts is also the first female commentator, Viviana Villa, to call the men's World Cup for U.S. television.
Warren is also excited about the network's social media presence this month. Aside from engaging with fans on its Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube channels, the network has recruited 24 fan influencers from around the country—through a deal with Copa90, a fan influencer group—to file reports, go to viewing parties, sit with crowds during the games, and share their experiences on digital and social media. "They will really be living the excitement of the World Cup in Chicago, San Francisco, Miami, Houston, and really telling it with a bird's eye view," said Warren.
Telemundo has quite the sporting event lineup in the next few years. There is next year's 2019 Women's World Cup, the 2020 Summer Olympics, and the 2021 FIFA Confederations Cup, to name a few. "Every year at least until 2026, we will be growing the Telemundo Deportes brand, and the Telemundo and NBCUniversal networks, with what we call the biggest, best global sports in Spanish-language television," said Warren. "Sports is coming to be the best place to reach viewers. You want to reach them live and with content they have never seen before as it unfolds."