Habla Futbol: Univision’s World Cup Success Story

Goooooool! If you’re following the World Cup semifinals from work this week, chances are that you’re gonna tune into the Univisionfutbol.com live stream. And if you’re anything like me, having forgotten pretty much all the Spanish you learned in school, you might find yourself every so often wondering: Wait, what did they just say?

Univision Interactive President Kevin Conroy doesn’t mind. Univision has the Spanish-language TV and online rights to the 2010 World Cup, and it clocked a total of 7.8 million hours of live streaming by late last week. Univisionfutbol.com also saw some 26 million visits and 145 million page views since the Cup began. “This is exceeding our expectations,” said Conroy during a phone interview last week.

A growing part of that success story is what Conry called English-dominant viewers — either Latinos who grew up in the United States and predominantly speak English, or people of other racial backgrounds that don’t speak much Spanish at all. Univision is catering to them with an English-language section of its World Cup site, which has so far seen more than half a million visits. “We want to make sure that we have a value proposition for English dominant (viewers),” Conroy told me.

Of course, the other big value proposition is unrestricted access. Univision’s live stream is competing with an offering from ESPN3, (s DIS) but the sports network is only available to customers of select ISPs. You’re okay if you’re with Comcast (s CSCMK), but Time Warner Cable (s TWC) customers are out of luck. Conroy didn’t want to comment on ESPN3’s business model, but he clearly didn’t mind the extra traffic from people turned away by ESPN3. “We wanted to make this broadly available,” he said, adding: “I think this decision has been an advantage to us.”

In many ways, Univision is really just starting to compete with the big boys in online sports. Univisionfutbol.com was just launched a few months ago, and this is the first time the network is featuring an event like this across multiple screens and platforms, including mobile phones and the iPad. Univisionfutbol’s mobile site had seen some 14 million visits and 41 million page views by the end of last week, with 1.6 million visits and 8.8 million page views coming from mobile applications. The biggest dent in this space was predictably caused by the iPhone, with Conroy telling me that iPad traffic hasn’t had much of an impact just yet.

Going forward, Univision wants to expand its online offerings to the over-the-top space. Conroy called connected devices “the next big opportunity” for the media business, and he said that the company is “very much focused” on Google TV and similar platforms. He cautioned, however, that different devices may need different approaches. Just scaling up an iPhone app to make it work on the iPad wouldn’t do the trick.

Part of that could also mean more content for English-dominant audiences. The World Cup has been a sort of testbed for that, but Conroy called it “really just a first step to offer value to that audience.”

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