By John Consoli
Special to TVWeek
NBC Universal is now going to offer all cable and satellite operators free access to Telemundo-owned cable network mun2 on August 12, so that all soccer fans around the country will get to see the English-language telecast of the World Cup qualifying match between the United States and Mexico.
The move will appease thousands of protesters who organized a petition drive last week trying to get broader English-language distribution of the 3 p.m. E.T. match.
Mun2 can reach 32 million households, carried on such cable and satellite operators as Comcast, Cablevision and Time Warner, along with DirecTV and DIsh Network. But the protesting viewers complained that this is only a small sliver of the country and a lot of potential viewers would be shut out. Mun2 is normally carried on special tiers on DIrecTV and DIsh, but both satellite suppliers have agreed to open up the channel to all of their subscribers on Aug. 12. Thus the total potential homes that can tune into Mun2 that day will be 56 million households.
Spanish-language broadcast network Telemundo owns the entire U.S. rights to televise the match, based on a deal it has with the Mexican national team, which allows Telemundo to exclusively show any matches the team plays in Mexico. The Aug. 12 World Cup qualifying match is in Mexico.
Telemundo will air the match on its broadcast network, which reaches 59 million homes, and after rejecting a bid by ESPN to buy the English-language U.S. telecast rights to the match, decided to give it’s sibbling English-language cable network, mun2, some publicity by offering the match there.
But soccer fans protested that the match should instead be offered on other NBC Universal owned cable networks, like USA or Bravo, which has a broader reach than mun2.
Telemundo president Don Browne said last week that the goal was to give some prominence to mun2 by offering the first live sports telecast on the network ever. And that fans who did not have access to mun2 on their cable systems, could watch the match on Telemundo and get the mun2 English language feed using the (secondary audio) SAP feature.
The NBC Universal decision to make mun2 available for one day to all cable systems for free is a compromise that will still allow mun2 to get a broader audience and some recognition, which was Telemundo’s goal.
Making the network available for the entire day will let viewers also have access to other mun2 programming and perhaps get some of those viewers to lobby their cable systems to add the network.
The free preview of mun2 will be promoted in each market with comprehensive marketing support that will include commercials on Telemundo and via website promotion, including notices on all the cable operators’ sites.
"It’s a great opportunity for new viewers to smaple our quality programming and to see a historic game produced by Telemundo Deportes (Telemundo Sports)," said Alex Pels, senior vp and general manager of mun2. "By offering a live major sporting event on mun2 free-of-charge, to the industry, we hope that all soccer fans and sports enthusiasts will recognize mun2 as uniquely American, game changing, connected and smart."
The televised match on mun2 will be preceded by a special edition of The mun2 Shuffle, a show that will offer tape music performances and a soccer preview. And following the match, the network will air a special mun2 Presents–The Best of mun2, which will offer highlights of all of the network’s original shows.