Univision Digital Exec Talks World Cup Streaming, Building Soccer Momentum

World Cup Final Germany Defeats Argentina - H 2014
Associated Press

Univision senior vp digital Mehul Nagrani says that the network's audience "leapfrogged onto mobile" as it brought the streaming service 10 million unique viewers during the monthlong event.

Although many of the World Cup's 64 matches aired during the work day, that didn't stop U.S. soccer fans from finding a way to follow along with the tournament.

Just how were all those workers watching the World Cup? Probably on Univision Deportes, says Mehul Nagrani, senior vp digital at Univision Communications. The streaming service from the Spanish-language network had more than 10 million unique viewers during the World Cup, four times as many viewers as in 2010.

"It's that predictability of knowing that Univision is going to have that game online," he says. "All the work we did promoting that paid off when we had the audience coming back to every single game."

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The World Cup has ushered in a number of new records for Univision's digital efforts. June 23, during which four group rounds stages were played, was the service's highest traffic day with 10.3 million visits. The U.S.-Belgium game on July 1 was Univision's largest live-stream event ever with 1.8 million unique viewers.

The network's digital success comes as the company looks to a multiplatform strategy, launching an updated Univision Deportes app in the days before the World Cup. The app had 3.4 million downloads during the tournament.

"Audiences leapfrogged onto mobile consumption," says Nagrani. "Almost 87 percent of total consumption for World Cup was on mobile devices. We recognize this mobile-first nature of our audience."

The company is also experimenting with its "TV Everywhere" business, making group play available for free before asking viewers to authenticate with a cable subscription for the later rounds of play.

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"We have to get the audience there," says Nagrani of Univision's authenticated streaming service, noting that the goal was to make the transition as smooth as possible for viewers. Univision essentially used the free World Cup games "as a big promotional vehicle for our audience to make the leap with us."

Nagrani notes that Univision's stream had no issues and no outages despite the record audience. Competitor ESPN, however, had issues streaming to customers via WatchESPN on its way to 1.7 million concurrent viewers during the U.S.-Germany game. Those problems were fixed in time for the final game between Germany and Argentina, which drew 1.8 million live unique viewers for the platform. WatchESPN averaged 892,000 unique viewers during the World Cup, up 174 percent from the 2010 tournament.

A lot has been made of the growing audience for soccer in the United States and what World Cup viewership means for soccer broadcasts in the future. Nagrani says Univision will attempt to leverage the audience and momentum it has built on Univision Deportes to keep audiences engaged with soccer.

"When the World Cup ends, soccer doesn't end," he adds. "You're going to see us stream more and more of those games and provide that full mobile experience."