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Eli Velazquez, EVP of programming, production, and content at Telemundo Deportes joined Bram on the SportTechie podcast to talk soccer, technology, and the FIFA World Cup. This will be the first time Telemundo will be broadcasting the tournament in the network’s history.
When Telemundo won the rights to the 2018, 2022, and 2026 World Cups back in 2011, for a fee of around $600 million, Velazquez says the network quickly began dreaming about exactly what that coverage might look like. “How do you differentiate from what has been done before?” he said. “How do you elevate the proposition for the consumers and the fans and the audience that you serve.”
One point of reference for Velazquez was to compare NBC Sports’ coverage of the Olympic Games. Both NBC Sports and Telemundo are owned by media conglomerate NBCUniversal. “Taking a page from that, storytelling became the crux of a lot of our focus,” Velazquez told Bram. “If you’re a fan of the sport and you’re a fan of your national team, or whatever national team you’re rooting for, you’re going to be focused on that. But how do we compel those of you that are on the fence about consuming these games?”
Since 2011, technologies like streaming and augmented and virtual reality have become more than just a fun add-on and increasingly part of how audiences consume content. “Seven years ago it would have been like ‘Oh, it would be nice to do this. Nice to do that.,’” Velazquez said. “But now it’s like we have to do this. We have to provide these experiences. That’s what our audience is asking us to do.”
AR will feature strongly in Telemundo’s coverage from Russia, as the network attempts to give American fans the experience of being there. “We want to try to integrate more augmented reality elements and enhancements over the landscape of [Russia] and from iconic locations in [Russia] that serve to highlight and illustrate to folks at home not just what you’re seeing, but what is it that it means to that culture,” Velazquez said.
Few U.S. fans will be making the journey East in large part because the national team failed to qualify for the tournament last year. While Velazquez will be there, he still feels the pain of his fellow fans. “I’m very sad that they’re not in this tournament. I’m a big supporter of U.S. soccer,” he said. “[But] I’ll look forward to having them in Qatar 2022, and we will be covering that just as well.”
Even with the U.S. team missing, though, Velazquez feels Telemundo has a unique opportunity at this World Cup. “We’re the rights holder in the Spanish language,” he explained. “Having a country in each group that has a Spanish speaking nation makes every single game of every single group important.”
But Velazquez is hoping Telemundo’s streaming and AR and other content reaches across the language barrier, too.
“It doesn’t matter what language you speak,” he said. “Watching soccer in Spanish is an experience unto itself.”
Hear the full interview with Velazquez, including more details on what Telemundo’s coverage might look like and Velazquez’s thoughts on esports, on this episode of the SportTechie Podcast with Bram Weinstein.
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