Pavarotti of the pitch gears up for World Cup

Times Colonist - - Television - RON­ALD BLUM

NEW YORK — An­dres Can­tor screamed “Goal!” for 38 se­conds, four for­tis­simo shrieks of shock, ela­tion and hys­te­ria that ex­ceeded even the usual vol­canic standard set by the Pavarotti of the pitch. Get­ting ready to broad­cast its first World Cup, Tele­mu­ndo hopes his huge-ca­pac­ity lungs per­suade Amer­i­can view­ers that soc­cer is bet­ter in Span­ish.

“I never time my­self,” the five­time Emmy Award-win­ning broad­caster said. “If I can have three new peo­ple watch soc­cer be­cause they have this crazy an­nouncer that goes nuts when a goal is scored and that’s what they think about, but they’re watch­ing the game, I’m happy for the game.”

Along­side the com­pe­ti­tion on the field will be the bat­tle for Amer­i­can view­ers of an au­di­ence likely to shrink be­cause of ear­lier U.S. kick­off times than four years ago — and be­cause this will be the first World Cup since 1986 that won’t have a United States team com­pet­ing. ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC av­er­aged 3.5 mil­lion view­ers for 48 group-stage games four years ago, boosted by a 13.4 mil­lion av­er­age for the three firstround games in­volv­ing the Amer­i­cans.

Fox ac­quired U.S. English-lan­guage tele­vi­sion rights for three World Cups start­ing with this year’s cham­pi­onship in Rus­sia and hired mostly Amer­i­can com­men­ta­tors to dif­fer­en­ti­ate it­self from the mostly Bri­tish voices em­ployed in 2010 and 2014 by ESPN, which broad­cast the last six tour­na­ments.

Tele­mu­ndo, part of Com­casts Corp.’s NBCUniver­sal Inc., took over U.S. Span­ish-lan­guage rights from Univi­sion, where Can­tor called World Cups in 1990, ’94 and ’98 be­fore switch­ing net­works.

“It’s disin­gen­u­ous for us or any­body to say that it doesn’t mat­ter that the U.S. isn’t there,” said Fox an­a­lyst Alexi Lalas, who worked three World Cups for ESPN be­fore switch­ing in De­cem­ber 2014. “Hav­ing said that, as the big­gest party in the world, I think it’s go­ing to over­take some peo­ple, and I think peo­ple are go­ing to be in­tro­duced to teams that maybe they wouldn’t, to play­ers they wouldn’t and they’re go­ing to ex­posed to sto­ries that maybe they wouldn’t.”

Fox is plan­ning more than 320 hours of broad­cast tele­vi­sion and over 1,000 hours in­clud­ing dig­i­tal, ac­cord­ing to David Neal, the net­work’s World Cup ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer. Af­ter the U.S. was elim­i­nated in qual­i­fy­ing last Oc­to­ber, Fox de­cided to base four of its six an­nounce teams at its Los An­ge­les stu­dios, where they will call matches off mon­i­tors. John Strong and Stu­art Holden will call games from sta­di­ums in Rus­sia, as will JP Del­la­cam­era and Tony Me­ola.

Eight of Fox’s 12 match com­men­ta­tors are Amer­i­can, in­clud­ing Aly Wag­ner as the first fe­male game an­a­lyst for a men’s World Cup on U.S. tele­vi­sion.

“For us it’s a cel­e­bra­tion of the growth of the game in the United States,” Neal said. “You want Amer­i­can voices, I think, be­cause that’s what’s fa­mil­iar to Amer­i­cans and their ears.”

Tele­mu­ndo, us­ing the mar­ket­ing power of many NBCUniver­sal net­works, wants to at­tract view­ers with a dif­fer­ent sound: Can­tor’s cantabile con brio. His calls of Carli Lloyd’s 54-yard goal in the 2015 Women’s World Cup fi­nal and of Lan­don Dono­van’s stop­page-tie score that ad­vanced the U.S. in 2010 are in­deli­ble.

NBC aired a 10-sec­ond ad of Can­tor shout­ing “Goal!” dur­ing the Su­per Bowl that was seen by 102 mil­lion English-lan­guage view­ers and 13 mil­lion His­pan­ics. He called a goal by Min­nesota’s Eric Staal dur­ing an NHL tele­cast of NBC, and Arlo White did a Can­tor im­per­son­ation dur­ing the fi­nal week­end of NBC’s Pre­mier League cov­er­age in May.


An­dres Can­tor: Five-time Emmy Award-win­ning broad­caster.

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