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ESPN targets Latino viewers with a new bilingual sports show

ESPN targets Latino viewers with a new bilingual sports show
From left, Jorge Sedano, Marly Rivera and Bernardo Osuna will co-anchor "Nacion ESPN." (ESPN)

ESPN is launching its first bilingual sports news show, aimed at the growing audience of Latino viewers in the United States.

Starting Sept. 26, cable network ESPN2 will air "Nación ESPN," a one-hour weekly program with Los Angeles sports radio host Jorge Sedano, boxing reporter Bernardo Osuna and ESPN Deportes online journalist Marly Rivera.

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Although the show will be presented in English, guests appearing on "Nación ESPN" can speak in Spanish if they prefer. The bilingual hosts will summarize remarks in English in such cases. Taped interviews conducted in Spanish will have English subtitles.

The hosts all have roots in Spanish-speaking communities. Sedano is a Cuban American from Miami. Osuna was born in Mexico and grew up in Los Angeles. Rivera is a New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent.

"Nación ESPN," which has aired on the Spanish-language channel ESPN Deportes since 2011, will attempt to attract Latino viewers to the Walt Disney Co. unit's other sports channels. Both English and Spanish are spoken in 79% of Latino households. Recent studies have shown that U.S.-born Latinos, especially in the millennial age group of 18 to 35, routinely alternate between Spanish-language and English-language programming.

"Their consumption trends are to pick and choose language both on personal preference, authenticity and which one gives them the most information," said Freddy Rolón, vice president and general manager of ESPN Deportes. "We see them going between ESPN and ESPN Deportes. We see a potential for growth with them."

Advertisers for the program can choose to run their commercials in Spanish or English. Toyota has signed on as the presenting sponsor through the NFL season.

"Nación ESPN" will air Mondays at 5 p.m. ET, giving the show's on-air team the opportunity to analyze the past weekend's NFL and soccer match results. It will also serve as a preview for the upcoming "NFL Monday Night Football" telecast on ESPN.

ESPN said soccer and NFL contests are the most popular sports among Latino viewers. ESPN Deportes produced and presented the Spanish-language telecast of the Super Bowl earlier this year.

"Nación ESPN" will also be available on demand through the online platform WatchESPN. A podcast version will also be available for digital devices.

The new program also gives ESPN the opportunity to focus on the one TV audience segment where the cable and satellite subscription business isn't eroding.

In the first quarter of 2016, Nielsen put the number of Latino households with video subscriptions at 12.16 million, an increase of 1% compared to 2015.

The slight uptick occurred while the overall number of video subscribers in the United States declined by 1.5% to 99.2 million homes, a result of more consumers turning to online streaming for their TV needs.

Long term, the cord-cutting trend is a troubling one for ESPN, which receives the highest fees per subscriber of any ad-supported cable network. ESPN is also losing subscribers as consumers choose to buy smaller bundles of cable channels to reduce their monthly bills.

Twitter: @SteveBattaglio

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