Neulion, Univision Digital Teams Deliver Soccer Content
The network looks to digital delivery to strengthen its relationship with fans
It’s no surprise that Univision Deportes manages to capitalize on its viewers’ love for soccer. But what is surprising is that it will finish 2017 as the top network among all 29 U.S. networks that broadcast live soccer, including 19 of the 20 top-rated club matches broadcast in the U.S., regardless of language. And now the network is looking to leverage digital delivery to build an even stronger relationship with viewers and soccer fans.
“Our strategy is based around the home of soccer, and it is a 360-degree concept that offers viewers the opportunity to have the best goals, highlights, and live games through our digital platform,” says Juan Pablo Convers, VP, business development, Univision Digital. “It doesn’t matter where you are or what screen you have. You can enter our ecosystem and take advantage of our content.”Liga MX, the Mexican national league, is at the center of much of the success. But Univision Deportes also has found success with the MLS, Bundesliga (via a sublicensing deal with Fox Deportes), and the CONCACAF Gold Cup. And, next year, the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League will be added to the mix.
“MVPD authentication is the way to go right now, as any games that are live on TV are available for streaming after authentication,” says Convers. “There are also a very small percentage of games that don’t make it to air, and, to watch those digital-only games, there is no need to authenticate.”
Core to the digital efforts is Univision NOW, an app that is powered by Neulion and delivers live streaming as well as VOD content.
“Neulion is super important for our digital efforts,” notes Convers. “Neulion has the infrastructure and the technical support to quickly resolve any issues; there is a virtual war room where we are in constant communication. It’s an awesome partnership.”
Neulion encodes the live matches and delivers them to fans at the correct bitrates through multiple CDNs and platforms. Explains Chris Wagner, co-founder/EVP, marketplace strategy, Neulion, “Our staff within the technical-operations center marks and identifies highlights in the live streams, like goals or yellow cards. That makes it easy to create highlight packages, condense games, and syndicate content.’
Neulion also delivers advertising within the live and VOD content. “[The ads] are integrated with Univision’s ad platform to make sure they are delivered at the right time and place,” adds Wagner.
Advertising revenues are the key driver for the VOD offering, with upwards of 90% of the VOD traffic driven by goals and highlights, according to Convers.
“VOD is an important revenue source for us,” he adds, “as our audience has the opportunity to watch matches on TV and then still want to see the goals and highlights during and after the match.”
As for syndication, Univision Deportes delivers content to various websites and social-media platforms. A team of about 25 people (plus an additional 15 freelancers, depending on the time of year) finalizes clipping of content, curation, headlines, other editorial components, and promotions.
“Access to the games, players, and coaches for creating original content is our strategy going forward for what to do with social media,” Convers adds.
Univision Deportes is also in a unique position with respect to future audience development as the Hispanic population continues to grow.
“It’s an opportunity to reach people from other countries as they enter the U.S. Hispanic market,” Convers explains. “Social media is a good way to reach them, and that goes to our value proposition: how can we give the best soccer content to those communities that want to link back to their family and [home] country? Doing it through digital is much more engaging.”
Also helping drive social-media engagement, he says, is that Hispanics tend to watch soccer matches as a group. “They sit with their friends and family and watch the games together, and, when they see our content on Facebook they will comment.”