ESPN Deportes Kicks Off Portuguese World Cup Coverage

ESPN Deportes, ESPN's Spanish-language sports network, is moving to address demand from an underserved part of the Latino community, with its first Portuguese­-language telecasts of World Cup soccer championship matches -- or "futbol" to several hundred million Spanish- and Portuguese-speakers.

According to ESPN, the new content offering targets Brazilian immigrants living in the United States, capitalizing on Brazil's recent qualification for the World Cup -- usually a given, but still a publicity-intensive event.

Lino Garcia, general manager, ESPN Deportes, stated: "We are leveraging our multi-language rights to better serve the passionate Portuguese-speaking fans."

In addition to the TV broadcasts, ESPN360.com will offer Portuguese-language coverage of World Cup matches; the TV and online coverage will focus on matches featuring Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Italy, Germany, France, Spain, Mexico and the USA.

The Portuguese-language broadcasts of the matches will also be complemented with Spanish-language news coverage and summaries from shows like "SportsCenter" and "Futbol Picante," including on-site reports from dozens of correspondents in South Africa, the site of this year's World Cup.

The decision to broadcast games in Portuguese is especially interesting in light of the fact that ESPN Deportes doesn't currently have the Spanish-language rights for FIFA events, which are held by Univision.

While Spanish-language telecasts are off-limits, it's worth noting that the similarity between Spanish and Portuguese would allow Spanish speakers to get the basic gist of the Portuguese-language broadcast -- especially important text content like scores, fouls, referee decisions and player stats.

Linguists say that Spanish and Portuguese, which diverged by the 16th century, share about 85% of their grammar and lexicon, although it is much easier for Spanish speakers to understand written Portuguese than the spoken language.

There are over half a million Portuguese speakers -- mostly of Brazilian descent -- living in America, compared to about 31 million Spanish speakers, including immigrants from Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean.

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