ESPN ups the Coverage, Univision Stays the Course

The benefit of being bilingual has afforded me the opportunity to enjoy the games on both ESPN and Univision. In previous world cups, the decision was an easy one : Univision all the way. It always seemed to me that ESPN broadcast the World Cup out of spite. The production did just enough to get the games on the air. They trotted out an army of talking heads in Bristol that just didn’t care about the sport. More importantly, they stayed in Bristol. They had some decent analysts (some not so decent), and their core footy guys were always good. But for every JP, there was a Dave O’Brien. He’s a terrific play by play guy; he just didn’t fit for footy. It was pretty sterile.

Univision could deliver the Spanish speakers.

They got better ratings, but it wasn’t for anything additional they would bring to the table. They knew they had a core audience who wanted to watch the games, and for them, that was enough. They haven’t changed their model because they haven’t had to. They might have to now.

For this World Cup, ESPN is finally giving the tournament the respect and the coverage it deserves. The game announcers are British, which, for me at least, has been the last reason I have been watching ESPN more. The studio is in South Africa. The analysts are the best they have had. Jurgen said on Sunday that the Germans were ready. I think he was right. Gullit was running hot and cold on the Dutch, just like he did when he was a player. Lalas has been holding his own. The opening graphics alone will win an award. It’s not wall to wall coverage, but if I wanted that, I can watch ESPN Deportes.

ESPN stepped up its game.

Univision has stayed the course. They are happy to keep the status quo on television, but they have dramatically increased their web presence. Which is good for me because I don't get ESPN3.

Fernando Fiore, the self proclaimed “presidente” runs all the studio stuff and has since France 98. Let’s just say I liked his previous show a little better, he had a better supporting cast (youtube Fuera de Serie). Their announcers are OK. Pablo Ramirez and Jesus Bracamontes have their moments, both good and bad. Ramirez’ has a habit of saying certain players names a certain way. It can get out of hand. And then there is Jose Luis Chilavert. He is not as flamboyant an announcer as he was a keeper, but he is opinionated, and he brings some good insight. He was a good pick up back in 2006. But they have no extra coverage, or a panel of ex-players, no wrap-up show…. It’s just the footy. And for them it’s enough. Why change if it works, right?

It’s been a little weird for me to watch the games in English more. For one, I haven’t gotten sucked into a telenovela like I have in World Cups past. Univision plugged Dos Mujeres un Camino so much during a world cup, I had to watch. I also found that I spoke better Spanish after a world cup. I have enjoyed ESPN’s coverage, but my only regret is they should have locked down Ray Hudson for the tournament.

I might have to try ESPN Deportes’ Portuguese coverage tomorrow.