The fan violence that postponed the final between longtime rivals Boca Juniors and River Plate and forced the relocation of the game to Spain generated so much controversy that Telemundo saw an opportunity to capitalize on the growing interest over the match.
So much so, that its sports division, Telemundo Deportes, acquired the U.S. Spanish-language broadcast rights for the game that will now take place 6,000 miles from Argentina, home country of both teams, and where they were supposed to play.
The decision to change the venue for what is considered to be the “Game of the Century” was made after River Plate fans attacked the bus transporting Boca Juniors team to the stadium for the final match, injuring several of the players. CONMEBOL, the competition’s governing body, determined Argentina wouldn’t be able to host the final without further violence.
Telemundo this year went all out to show it can be a top soccer destination with its very first wall-to-wall coverage of the FIFA World Cup in Russia, after scoring rights to the global competition for 2018, 2022 and 2026.
The network has never aired Copa Libertadores. The final, taking place at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid on Sunday, December 9, will be the first time. Cable network Fox Deportes has been airing Copa Libertadores every year since 2002.
“We acquired the broadcast rights to the final because it represented a unique opportunity to complement the cable coverage and make the game more widely available for soccer fans, especially given all the controversy and anticipation behind the event,” states Ray Warren, president of Telemundo Deportes.
Telemundo Deportes will have Andrés Cantor leading the coverage, calling the match live from stadium in Madrid with Carlota Vizmanos as sideline reporter. Miguel Gurwitz will host pre and post game coverage from Telemundo Center in Miami, alongside Sammy Sadovnik and Eduardo Biscayart.
The Boca-River matchup will air live on Telemundo and the Telemundo Deportes App at 2:30 p.m. ET, as well as on Fox Deportes.
Fox Deportes will offer more than 10 hours of live Copa Libertadores coverage from Madrid starting at 8 a.m. ET. Announcer Mariano Closs and former Boca Juniors striker Diego Latorre will call the match. John Laguna, Mariano Trujillo, Rodolfo Landeros and Alvaro Izquierdo will tackle pregame coverage from Los Angeles.
The first leg ended in a 2-2 tie at Boca’s La Bombonera stadium. A win for Boca will give the club its seventh Libertadores title, while River Plate could earn its fourth crown.
Both networks hope to attract a big audience.
“Beyond the increased interest of the final due to the historic nature of a final between arguably the biggest soccer rivalry on the planet, the controversy over the last two weeks has naturally increased excitement and interest,” says Carlos Sánchez, Fox Deportes evp and general manager. “We expect strong ratings based on the teams involved and the vast amount of coverage in the media. The first leg was the highest rated Copa Libertadores games of the last three years not featuring a Mexican club.”
Sánchez doesn’t seem preoccupied with Telemundo jumping in last minute to broadcast the game.
“We are confident that FOX Deportes will offer the most complete and in-depth coverage of the Copa Libertadores final. Rather than just showing the match, FOX Deportes will have live coverage beginning six and half hours before kick-off and feature expert analysis, comprehensive coverage and expansive on-site resources.”
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