Live from the World Cup: Univision Finds Ratings, Technical Success

Univision Deportes is the most popular Spanish-speaking TV network in the U.S. and while the Spanish-speaking rights will transfer over to Telemundo after tomorrow’s final match the network is going out in style with upwards of 17 hours a day of sports coverage, plenty of it related to the World Cup.

Olek Lowenstein of Univision Deportes on the largest set at the IBC.

Olek Lowenstein of Univision Deportes on the largest set at the IBC.

“We have the main over-the-air network and then a suite of other networks, both over the air and on cable,” says Olek Lowenstein, Univision, vice president of planning for Univision Deportes.

During the month-long tournament upwards of 230 Univision staffers and third-party integrators have helped get operations up and running and also kept viewers in the U.S. informed of the action. Bexel, for example, played an integral role in setting up the operations for Univision Deportes.

“For us the main goal was to bring 300 million people down to Brazil and to also set the bar pretty high for Telemundo and make sure we leave with a bang,” adds Lowenstein.

Given the ratings success it appears Univision has done just that.

“Clearly the U.S. market has changed and between us and ESPN the U.S. vs. Germany match was the most watched soccer game in the history of the U.S. as 25 million people watched the game,” says Lowenstein. “So there is a clear numbers trend with more people in the U.S. watching soccer. And the Mexico vs. Holland game broke the record for most watched Hispanic language show for any program which was huge for us.”

Bexel sent approximately 15 engineers to Brazil to reassemble the Univision system that was originally built in Los Angeles to give the Univision team a chance to check it out prior to delivery to Brazil. The Bexel-designed system consists of two large control rooms with Grass Valley Kayenne 4M/E production switchers and Calrec audio consoles. The file-based workflow consists of 11 Avid editing systems, four EVS XT3 servers for playback and instant replay, and a robust graphics system including augmented reality. Bexel also provided Sony HDC-2500 cameras complete with a camera stabilization system and jib for the studio at the IBC.

The Univision Deportes set makes use of virtual reality technology.

The Univision Deportes set makes use of virtual reality technology.

All of the World Cup programming has originated from Brazil and a massive studio within the IBC. The main focus during the group stage was on covering both the U.S. and Mexico teams and ENG crews were embedded with both as they moved from the preparation process to actual matches and, ultimately, elimination.

“We also had a presence at all of the games in Rio and also chose an extra game each day that would be the best game for our audience,” explains Lowenstein.

Once the tournament transitioned into the second round the network increased its presence, offering ENG coverage of Costa Rica, Colombia, Mexico, and the U.S.

“We covered a lot from on-site during the round of 16,” adds Lowenstein.

The impressive studio was built in Colombia as from a cost perspective it did not make sense to build it in the U.S., partially due to the challenge of dealing with customs. The decision to have everything on the technical side pre-built by Bexel was also driven by uncertainty with respect to how ready the IBC would be. Integration work began on May 21 and completed on May 28 with rehearsals beginning on June 1.

“Pre-doing everything was a blessing as we could have all the EVS folders tested as well as the naming conventions set and tapeless workflows tested from end to end,” adds Lowenstein. “We also pre-loaded all the graphics in the control room. The only thing that needed to be updated was the Vizrt/Liberovision augmented reality software as that had to be calibrated.”
Univision Deportes definitely embraced the team spirit during the event.

“Here everyone lives under the same roof; working, eating, and drinking together so that creates a phenomenon of building a team that is larger than the sum of the parts,” says Lowenstein.

In order to lift spirits the network had family members back home secretly record messages for those working at the World Cup and also pledged to take every one to at least one game. The network also arranged soccer games with guests like World Cup winners.

“The experience should be more than plywood and cables,” adds Lowenstein.

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