Press "Enter" to search and "ESC" to close.

Telemundo is destroying FOX with its World Cup coverage

There isn't anything special with what Telemundo is doing in Qatar. But compared to FOX's World Cup coverage, it's Emmy Award-winning television

I had no interest in watching FOX’s World Cup coverage from the start. Knowing that I could stream the Telemundo coverage on Peacock made it easier, and I enjoyed their predictably loud and colorful coverage throughout the first two rounds of the group stages.

But for the past week I’ve been stuck in an Phoenix hotel room, one whose TV curiously carries Univision but not Telemundo. I can still stream the Telemundo coverage on my phone if I want to, but FOX is my only option if I want to watch the game on a big screen. It’s a small complaint considering our modern conveniences, but I was bracing for a broadcast that I figured was going to be bad.

But I didn’t know it was going to be this bad.

FOX still can’t broadcast well

All of the complaints about FOX’s World Cup coverage can be found in this spicy commentary from The Guardian’s Aaron Timms, who calls FOX’s coverage “an unmissable abomination.” It might be harsh for anyone used to English-language commentary, but anyone who’s watched the World Cup from literally any other broadcaster can see the problems.

Timms and I share the same issues with the coverage, most notably that FOX is desperately trying to appeal to a mainstream crowd by associating the World Cup to more American pastimes, and making futbol fans feel dumb in the process. It doesn’t help that the messengers they’ve chosen to speak down to us have just about zero personality.

Landon Donovan provides almost no charm or excitement as a color commentator, making Taylor Twellman sound like Gus Johnson. Clint Dempsey seems way out of his depth as a studio host. Ian Darke is a perfectly fine play-by-play man, but it still feels weird to have an English commentator the voice of an American futbol broadcast. And nobody seems to like Alexi Lalas, though I very much enjoy him becoming the Stephen A. Smith of U.S. soccer.

And in any previous cycle, this wouldn’t be much of an issue. FOX could skate by with their D-minus coverage and still rake in the dough. But there’s a competitor in this country that actually knows how to broadcast futbol, and they’re starting to rake in the acclaim.

Telemundo has this down to a science

It’s worth noting that Telemundo’s coverage isn’t especially different from its coverage of the 2018 World Cup and that it isn’t even particularly special compared to its or TUDN’s regular coverage. But compared side-by-side to FOX, there’s no discussion about who’s doing better.

It starts by employing Andres Cantor, the greatest futbol announcer of all time, and Manuel Sol, plus whatever rotating third guest they decide to have in the booth. Most of these guests have been strong and have brought great insight to their respective countries, with the exception of Piojo Herrera, who is funny but doesn’t really know his way around a live broadcast.

It continues with the pre and postgame fan interviews, which are all a bit staged and cheesy but also fun and nostalgic. The studio roundtables with seemingly dozens of commentators yelling over each other just feels like background noise to what’s already happening in your house, and Telemundo’s set design is so much brighter and colorful than whatever is going on at FOX. In just about every way, Telemundo has crafted an entertainment product that has vastly outshined FOX’s World Cup coverage. And now they’re starting to get that recognition.

The Latino audience has jumped way up

We’ve all seen the “better on Telemundo” tweets, but it’s really true. Check this out:

And that was for a U.S. goal.

People seem to like this! Through their first two days of coverage, Telemundo owner NBC reported a 72% increase in viewership compared to the same two-day period from 2018. The World Cup also shot Peacock up to the number-one spot in the App Store, ahead of FOX Sports GO, which also hosts World Cup streams. FOX, meanwhile, has seen its numbers go down compared to 2014, the last time the USMNT was in the World Cup. It’s not a coincidence.

This isn’t to say that Telemundo’s coverage has been perfect. Herrera was an awkward fit in the booth, and they really messed up the national anthem during the first two Mexico games. But those are small things in comparison to FOX’s halfhearted broadcast, which is basically unwatchable for anyone with even a little bit of Spanish in their vocabulary. With any luck, NBC can take over the English-language coverage in later years, and maybe they can use the Telemundo template to actually make it good.