Economy & Trade, Headlines, Latin America & the Caribbean

Football Fortunes for Mexican TV

Emilio Godoy

MEXICO CITY, May 17 2010 (IPS) - Horacio Ramos is not bothered about paying an extra 50 dollars on his television subscription so that he can watch the entire FIFA World Cup, which kicks off Jun. 11 in South Africa.

“I want to watch most of the matches. I’m going to ask for holiday leave for those days,” the 30-year-old Mexican office worker told IPS.

The fees charged by television companies create unequal access to this Latin American country’s most popular sport, as the private networks Televisa and TV Azteca will only be broadcasting some of the football games on their free-to-air channels.

This has been the pattern for some years now for local tournaments and matches involving Mexican teams in regional competitions, like the Copa Santander Libertadores championship of Latin American club teams.

“People aren’t sure which matches will be on the free-to-air channels, and at what times,” Aldo Zavalza, a consultant with the De la Riva Group that has produced reports about the football business in the Mexican market since 2002, told IPS. “They want to see most of the games, but on the other hand they have to go to work,”

Televisa and TV Azteca could make profits of 800 million dollars from advertising during the World Cup, according to forecasts by several financial analysis firms. The global tournament will also be excellent business for beverage and snack producers, although their projected earnings have not yet been estimated.


In projections of advertising revenue for the World Cup, published in March, TV Azteca announced sales worth 370 million dollars, and Televisa for 1.4 billion dollars.

Football in Mexico generates over seven billion dollars a year, or 0.7 percent of GDP, according to a study titled “Tendencias del futbol, su afición y consumo en México” (Trends in Football, Fans and Consumption in Mexico) by the De la Riva Group.

In Latin America, only Brazil, five times the FIFA (International Federation of Association Football) World Cup champions, caps Mexico’s football earnings.

For the 2010 World Cup tournament between 32 national football teams, Televisa has the advantage of operating the Sky satellite television channel and the subscription channel Televisa Deportes Network, which has exclusive broadcasting rights for 10 out of the 64 matches.

The inaugural match will be played by Mexico and the South African team in Johannesburg.

The mere presence at the tournament of “El Tri”, as the Mexican team is familiarly known because of the green, white and red colours of the national flag, ensures a surge in the number of viewers and in revenues for the two private networks that have a virtual monopoly on the Mexican television market.

In Televisa’s case, Mexico’s participation in the World Cup will mean a 30 percent increase in the number of viewers and an additional 16 million dollars in advertising sales, according to 2009 estimates by Spanish bank BBVA Bancomer.

Meanwhile TV Azteca, owned by the Salinas Group, expects a 15 percent increase in viewers and an extra 12 million dollars in advertising because of the presence of the Mexican team.

During the 2002 FIFA championship, held in South Korea and Japan, Televisa sales were worth 437 million dollars, which fell to 400 million dollars for the 2006 World Cup in Germany, according to statistics from Spanish bank Santander.

TV Azteca earned 25 million dollars for broadcasting the 2002 Asian-based football championship. Precise figures are not available for the Germany 2006 World Cup.

In Mexico, Televisa owns three football teams, América — which rivals Chivas, in the northwestern city of Guadalajara, as the most popular team in the country — , San Luis and Nexaca. The Salinas Group, owners of TV Azteca, also owns Monarcas Morelia, in central Mexico.

Both companies negotiate with other teams for exclusive coverage of the matches played on their own teams’ fields, earning millions of dollars from the sport.

Subscription channel TVC Deportes, owned by the PCTV company, will broadcast 30 matches from the South Africa championship, up to Jul. 11.

Mexico, with a population of 107 million, has more than seven million subscribers to private cable and satellite television services, according to the governmental Federal Telecommunications Commission (COFETEL).

The football championship also brings political benefits.

A government poll found that between 59 and 63 percent of respondents were in favour of conservative President Felipe Calderón attending the opening match of the World Cup, between Mexico and South Africa, to which he has been invited by South African President Jacob Zuma.

Regarding Mexico’s chances, television creates “unrealistic expectations, exploiting society’s need for escape valves and moments of happiness in the midst of their daily problems” and for “incentives and stimulation to make up for adversity,” according to commentator Carlos Treviño.

A recent poll by Mitofsky Consultants concluded that 84.7 percent of respondents believe that the Mexico team will perform at a level between “fair” and “good”.

“Mexicans are passionate about their country’s team, just like Argentines. It’s a reaffirmation of being Mexican, a form of national identity that is rooted in history and ritual,” Zavalza said.

Mexico has taken part in 13 World Cup championships and has never got beyond the round-of-16, one stage before the quarter-finals, although it has twice hosted the tournament: in 1970, when Brazil won the cup, and in 1986 when the champion was Argentina.

So far, its greatest football success has been winning the under-17 world football championship in Peru in 2005.

 
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