In what can be best described as a forward-thinking move from Bristol, ESPN has entered into a unique agreement with Univision to become the home for English language rights to all home games for the Mexican national team. ESPN will air international friendlies and all home games throughout 2014 World Cup qualifying for a total of 20 matches that begins today with a friendly against Denmark in Phoenix.
The popularity of El Tri is a growing force stateside. The most watched international men's soccer game in 2012 on American television was a Univision broadcast of Mexico-Colombia that drew 4.3 million viewers. With a growing hispanic population in the United States, this move from ESPN makes perfect sense demographically speaking. In fact, ESPN made that crystal clear in their announcement:
“The Mexican National Team plays an exciting brand of soccer that has attracted a passionate, loyal fan base not only in Mexico but throughout the U.S.,” said Scott Guglielmino, ESPN senior vice president, programming. “As ESPN continues to build towards the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, this agreement represents an opportunity to add a premier soccer property that will appeal to all fans, including our growing Hispanic audience.”
And although the truth may hurt American soccer fans, the Mexican team is simply better right now than the USMNT. This agreement gives soccer fans who watch ESPN another team to invest in leading into the World Cup, and perhaps more importantly, a second team for ESPN to invest in. For American soccer fans, the best bit of news from this deal is ESPN winning the rights to the immense USA-Mexico World Cup qualifier in Mexico City, which in the past has been very difficult to watch.
It'll be interesting to see how many viewers Bristol can draw with an English language telecast for El Tri and just how much the audience for these games is split between ESPN and Univision. Nevertheless, this presents an opportunity for ESPN to grab a new foothold in an ever expanding soccer market. The Mexican national team provides a new element to their soccer portfolio leading up to the 2014 World Cup after losing the English Premier League to NBC. With every major network chasing more and more soccer rights, ESPN can get ahead of the competition once again with the Mexican national team.