Why Telemundo Says Its World Cup Ad Revenue Will Surpass Fox’s, Despite Lower Ratings

NBCUniversal is on track to rake in $225 million

Telemundo simulcast a few World Cup games, including the Croatia-England semifinal, on NBCSN. Source: Getty Images
Headshot of Jason Lynch

Telemundo is in the home stretch of its inaugural men’s FIFA World Cup tournament—France and Croatia will meet in Sunday’s final match, after Saturday’s third-place playoff between England and Belgium—and like its English-language counterpart, Fox Sports, the company says the event will be an ad revenue success, even though ratings are down from 2014.

While Telemundo’s ratings for its Spanish-language World Cup coverage are below Fox and FS1’s, Telemundo will take in more overall ad revenue from the tournament, echoing 2014, when Univision’s haul for the World Cup was greater than that of ABC and ESPN’s.

All told, Telemundo expects to rake in around $225 million in World Cup ad revenue throughout the monthlong tournament, which surpassed its initial goals, said Laura Molen, evp, lifestyle and Hispanic advertising sales group, NBCUniversal.

That number could approach $300 million when factoring in revenue from Telemundo’s local stations.

Telemundo has beaten Univision’s 2014 World Cup ad revenue total—$177 million, according to Standard Media Index, compared to $111.6 million for ESPN and ABC— and is “confident” it will also beat Fox Sports’ tally this year, Molen said. “The World Cup broke records for Telemundofrom a revenue perspective.”

(While Kantar Media had considerably higher ad revenue estimates for the 2014 tournament— putting Univision Networks at $336 million and ABC/ESPN at $187 million—sources said the Standard Media Index estimates are more in line with that year’s performance.)

Those financial wins came even as ratings were down sharply, as much as 40 percent, from Univision’s 2014 World Cup telecast. That tournament, which took place in Brazil, was more time zone-friendly than 2018’s Russia locale, and the U.S. team was eliminated from contention last October. Both of those factors also dented Fox Sports’ ratings versus ESPN and ABC’s in 2014.

But even with ratings below those of Fox Sports, Telemundo came out on top in ad revenue due to its passionate, targeted audience, Molen said.

“Our audience is very passionate about soccer,” Molen said. Hispanics represent 18 percent of the U.S. population, she added, and Telemundo’s World Cup viewership has attracted 40 percent of that group, on average.

“For the Hispanic audience, the World Cup is our Super Bowl, World Series and Olympics in 32 days,” Molen said. “Marketers also recognize the passion of this audience translates to their brands. It’s a very engaged audience, and they are also young and bilingual, and almost 20 percent doesn’t even speak Spanish.”

Add in the 60-40 split between women and men, and higher family co-viewing numbers than the Winter Olympics, “and it makes it a very desirable event for marketers,” she continued.

Coca-Cola was the presenting sponsor of the Telemundo Deportes postgame show for all 64 World Cup matches as well as the in-game match clocks. Sprint served as the official halftime sponsor of all 64, and Volkswagen was the presenting sponsor of the network’s nightly World Cup prime-time show.

The tournament also drew strong interest from theatrical, e-retailers and technology categories, Molen said. And Its robust streaming numbers—the World Cup is on pace to break Telemundo Deportes’ streaming records 2.2 billion minutes for the Winter Olympics—attracted attention from some brands that don’t traditionally advertise on U.S. Spanish-language networks like eBay, Pizza Hut and Nintendo.

Meanwhile, Molen isn’t done selling. She has “a couple of spots” remaining for Sunday’s finale. “It’s been beneficial for us to hold back a couple” during each round of the tournament, she said.

NBCU worked to broaden the World Cup audience by simulcasting a few Telemundo games on its NBCSN sports network, including both semifinal matches this week, as well as Brazil-Switzerland on June 17 and England-Belgium on June 28.

“We want to get it out everywhere we possibly can,” Molen said. Telemundo’s research finds that 20 percent of its audience is comprised of non-Hispanic viewers. Mark Lazarus, who oversees the NBC Sports Group, “has been really supportive on maximizing our revenue goals and our audience by including NBC Sports Network.”

During the tournament, it’s not surprise that games in which Mexico played were the standouts. The June 23 Mexico-South Korea match averaged 7.2 million viewers on NBCU’s Total Audience Delivery metric (which combines linear and digital numbers; the linear rating was 6.6 million) and June 17’s Mexico-Germany game averaged 7.4 million (6.6 million on TV).

And some of those viewers are staying around to watch non-World Cup programming.

Molen said 29 percent of Telemundo’s prime-time viewers during the tournament had not watched the network in prime time during the past month.

“They’re coming there because of the World Cup,” which has been heavily promoting the network’s slate, Molen said. “That is so exciting as we head into the fall season.”

Telemundo has a lot on the line during the tournament—it reportedly paid about $1 billion for Spanish-language men’s and women’s World Cup rights between 2015 and 2026, approximately $100 million more than Fox Sports paid for U.S. language rights in the same time frame.

Earlier this week, Fox Sports said its World Cup has also been an ad revenue success, even with lower ratings than the 2014 tournament, and that it expected to surpass ESPN and ABC’s haul from 2014.

@jasonlynch jason.lynch@adweek.com Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.