NBC Sports Coverage Gets a Spanish Accent

The network is ready to speak directly to the millions of avid Spanish-speaking fans in the country.

NBCUniversal has created a division for Spanish-language sports coverage to serve as the production unit and content provider for Telemundo and NBC Universo, a cable channel launched in February to show the Super Bowl. The division, NBC Deportes ("sports" in Spanish), includes digital platforms, such as applications and a new website.

NBC knows the value of the Latino soccer fan base. Rival Univision demonstrated that some games broadcast in Spanish could outperform ones shown in English. That network raked in 80.9 million viewers in the 2014 World Cup. This venture will create 1,000 hours of sports content for the rest of this year alone. It is the space to watch the World Cup, Premier League, NASCAR, and the Olympics in Spanish.

Next America spoke with Eli Velazquez, the executive vice president of NBC Deportes, about the job ahead of him and what sports means for U.S. Latinos. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

NBC executives have said in interviews that "Hispanic America" is the new mainstream. What does that mean?

If you look at population growth in this country, it is clear that Hispanics have taken on a much more significant impact, not just in population numbers, but also in spending power and in consumption patterns. They seem to be early adapters to new technologies. They also crave the experience that this country provides to all of us. Being a nation of immigrants, the Hispanic component of that is just now taking on more importance because of the increase in the numbers I highlighted.

We're all taking note of the fact that Hispanics are a more significant part of the landscape of this country and they represent an opportunity to provide additional services that can be mutually beneficial, not just to the advertisers who support our efforts but also to the audiences themselves.

How is the Spanish-language arm of the company adapting to a younger, more tech-savvy audience?

From our perspective, and since I started in the industry about 23 years ago, it's no longer us delivering information and content to a consumer in a one-way pattern. It's now more of a conversation. I have two young sons and they're constantly connected. It's not lost on me that if you're not speaking to them or getting to them in ways they're most familiar with, you're not going to have much success.

How significant is it for NBC to have the Spanish-language rights for the next three World Cups?

The World Cup and all the properties and tournaments that come with this association have tremendous significance for our audience—the Hispanic space. For every one of these events, there's national pride clearly on the line there, and everyone gathers together. It's not just the typical sports fans. In our space, we're finding it's families. It's men, women, sons, and daughters really getting around these events. We see it as a tremendous opportunity and clearly a game-changer for our organization, and one that has lead us to form NBC Deportes.

Why have one main area to show sports in Spanish?

Sports is a passion for our audience, and soccer and the tournaments and events that we are fortunate enough to be able deliver to them drive those passions to another level. The events that we have at our networks are significant and they have a real meaningful relationship with the audiences that matter the most for our business.

How has the strategy changed in the last two decades?

The strategy hasn't changed much. Our real passion as producers is to tell stories. I think the Hispanic experience—one that I feel confident I can speak to obviously—has always been one that is aspirational and one that really feeds off the inspiration not only of the people you know within your own community or your own family, but people you get to know or relate to through platforms like ours. We tell the stories of these athletes, the stories of these teams, and not just the stories of what they do at the highest level but also what got them there.

A lot of time, sports is a collective unifier. In good times and in bad times, you always have your teams, you always have your sports, and these are moments in time that are high drama.