By Allison J. Waldman
Special to TelevisionWeek
When the Leaders of Spanish-Language Television Awards are presented this week in New York by the National Television Academy, one of the six honorees will be Telemundo sports anchor Jessi Losada.
“I’m extremely proud to be selected because it’s an extremely important award. It’s not just for one thing I’ve done, it’s for everything I’ve done in a career that spans 30 years in Hispanic broadcasting,” Mr. Losada said. “I’m also happy that I’m only the second sports anchor to win this award, the other person being Andres Cantor, who is my friend and co-worker.” In fact, Mr. Cantor, Telemundo’s soccer analyst who became world famous for his iconic “Gooooaaaal!” call, will present Mr. Losada with the award.
Having started in broadcasting when he was just a teenager, Mr. Losada recalled that it was his father who first influenced his career. “I was following in my Dad’s footsteps,” he said. “I used to go with him to work at Univision, the former Spanish International Network. I did odd jobs until I finally got a chance to work in sports. The whole industry at that point was just starting out. That’s why I had the opportunity to work in the business from the ground up, and sports has always been my great passion.”
Spanish-language sports fans are a passionate sector, too. “Soccer is No. 1 among all Latinos in general,” Mr. Losada said. “There are some places like Cuba or Puerto Rico or the Caribbean where Hispanics don’t follow soccer that much, but the majority love it. Boxing, I would say, is a close second. Boxing is loved by every Hispanic, whether in South America, Central America, the Caribbean, everywhere.
“Of the U.S. sports, baseball and the NFL are very popular. Last year there was an NFL game in Mexico City that drew 118,000 people, the largest attendance in the history of the NFL, and it happened in a Latin country.”
Mr. Losada has had a prolific career covering a variety of sporting events, in part because of his fluency in both Spanish and English. He worked on CBS Americas Radio Network’s numerous projects from regular-season NFL games to the Super Bowl and Soccer World Cup coverage. “I enjoy doing mainstream American sports,” he said. “I did the NBA in Spanish for Latin America for Turner Broadcasting. Recently, I did boxing in English and Spanish on Telemundo. It started in Spanish as one boxing card for Telemundo, then we switched over to NBC for the main event in English. The NBC broadcast would begin with me welcoming viewers in English.”
Since Telemundo became part of NBC Universal, Mr. Losada has had the chance to work with one of his heroes. “Of American sports broadcasters, Bob Costas is definitely the best,” he said. “I try to follow in his footsteps. He personifies what sportscasters should be.”
Mr. Losada has also added Olympics coverage to his resume as part of NBC. “The 2004 Olympics in Athens was my first games as a host, and it was the first time the Olympics were broadcast in Spanish in the United States,” Mr. Losada said. “I’m looking forward to the Beijing Olympics in 2008. That’ll be a very important event for my career and for Telemundo.”
From three decades of sports broadcasting, Mr. Losada has special memories of one event in particular. “The World Cup in America in 1994 was an extraordinary event,” he said. “I think it put Spanish-language television on the map because we had such great coverage. That was really exciting because I saw for the first time soccer really taking root in the United States. A lot of people thought the stadiums were going to be half full, but it was just the opposite. It was a tremendous success, on a personal level and a professional level, so that also stands out for me.”
Asked how things have changed at the network during his tenure, Mr. Losada said, “I think Telemundo becoming part of NBC Universal has been the single most positive thing to happen to the network since its inception. I think NBC is very committed to Spanish-language TV and they’ve already seen the results. The synergy of Telemundo and NBC Universal is extremely positive and it’s going to help Telemundo to grow.”
Mr. Losada has received a number of regional Emmy awards during his career. In 1992 he received one for an in-depth feature on Major League Baseball star Rafael Palmeiro, and he was honored for his news coverage from Milan, Rome and other cities in Italy during the 1990 World Cup. Still, Mr. Losada eagerly awaits the awards this week. “Their being in New York just makes it more exciting,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to going.”