How Fox Deportes Turned It Around to Dominate Spanish-Language Sports

By Tony Maglio, The Wrap

Fox Deportes is about to broadcast the World Series in Spanish — which says a lot about the strategy it's used to dominate Spanish-language sports broadcasting.

Three years ago, the decade-old Fox Deportes was a soccer-fixated network that couldn't overcome ESPN Deportes or Gol TV in terms of ratings or brand awareness. Now, thanks to a new focus on mainstream sports — but in Spanish — it is leading its competitors in total viewers and the key 18-49 demographic, both in primetime and total day viewing.

Fox Deportes averages 43,000 viewers each day to ESPN Deportes' 34,000. The gap widens in primetime, when Fox has 66,000 average viewers to ESPN's 49,000.

Just as sweet: Ad sales are up 100 percent.

The company's fortunes have improved since it brought in new Executive Vice President and General Manager Vincent Cordero (left), who came up with a novel idea: Stop thinking of viewers as Latin Americans who live in the U.S., still loyal only to popular Latin American sports like soccer. Start thinking of them as sports fans who just happen to speak Spanish.

"I think historically, people thought of U.S. Latinos as Latin Americans in the United States, as opposed to Americans who are Latino," Cordero told TheWrap. "I am a U.S. Latino — I fundamentally believe that we are the new face of the United States and that we deserve the best."

The network aggressively pursued exclusive rights to popular American sports. It has the exclusive rights for UFC, NCAA College Football, and Golden Boy boxing. And the network hasn't turned its back on soccer. It has the UEFA soccer league and Copa Libertadores — their two highest-rated properties.

Being under the Fox umbrellas also gave it the Major League Baseball rights — including tonight's series between the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals.

Last NCAA College Football season, Fox Deportes aired the most college football games ever aired in Spanish — 17 — including the Cotton Bowl. This year it set the mark for the most NASCAR events aired in Spanish, with eight.

Fox Deportes has become more successful as its market has become more crowded: Telemundo has more aggressively pursued live event rights and both Al-Jazeera Sports Net and Univision Deportes have debuted.

Its news show, meanwhile, "Central Fox," is beating ESPN Deportes' "SportsCenter." And it's winning in the social media sphere.

In 2011, the network had just 50,000 Facebook fans. Today it has nearly 2.2 million — more than any Fox Sports property. Univision Deportes and ESPN Deportes each have fewer than 450,000.

The network's popularity on the air and online had fed one another, partly because the network began posting in English as well as Spanish to achieve the widest possible audience. It hopes to have three million Facebook fans by April.