August 28, 2012
By Kaylee Hultgren
With Time Warner Cable Deportes set to launch Oct 1, the MSO announced its first on-air talent for the Spanish-language sports regional network in Southern California. Beloved Latino sports personalities Ricardo Celis, Martin “El Pulpo” Zúñiga, Elmur Souza, Enrique Gutierrez and Hipolito Gamboa will make up the team. CableFAX spoke with Martin Zúñiga, the network’s chief soccer analyst, and Ricardo Celis, a sports anchor and host of the pre- and post-game Lakers shows, on their roles at the network, its approach to social media and what each commentator brings to the table.
What is the role you’ll play at the network?
Martin Zúñiga: I’m going to be the principal analyst for soccer. For example, I’m going to be traveling with the [L.A.] Galaxy and making sure that I’m following everything that has to do with the team.
Ricardo Celis: I’m going to be the host for the pre-game and post-game for the Lakers. So far that’s what I got, but if they want me to do anything else, I’d be more than happy to.
Martin, how are you participating in the network’s nightly soccer shows?
Zúñiga: I’m going to be a part of that daily soccer show, in addition to other segments and shows that are under development. I feel that in addition to analyzing the sport, I’m bringing to the table the fact that I have 14 years experience as a professional soccer player. And that’s not something you find in every analyst or broadcaster that’s out there. It brings a different perspective to people that are watching and I think that’s important.
The network is supposedly embracing a Mexican approach to soccer. Can you elaborate on that?
Zúñiga: I feel that when we talk about Mexican soccer fans, they live and breathe and eat soccer… It’s a part of their daily life and cultural background, so it’s very important, and that makes them very unique. However, it is important to point out that Central Americans and South Americans and Latinos in general really do have a very strong connection to the sport. And we’re going to do our very best to meet that challenge because we know they’re knowledgeable fans, and we want to make sure we’re not just telling them, but also allowing them to be participants in our broadcast, and have their own ideas—not just the ideas that we think are important.
Given that Latino fans tend to over-index on social media, how will the network embrace multiple platforms?
Zúñiga: I know that social media plays a big role, especially these days, so that is something we’re looking into, in terms of how we can increase the ability to interact with our fans. I’m going to have a more visible presence on places like Twitter and Facebook, as well as the other members of our team. So we’re looking forward to integrating that and making sure that we’re connecting with our fans and all the different ways that we can—beyond soccer, though that will be my main role.
Celis: So far everybody who’s involved in this project has a Twitter account and [the network is on] Facebook. And we’ll be trying to put more information into it. So far I have 2,000 followers, so it’s been really good.
Do you think the network will help grow the popularity of soccer in this country?
Zúñiga: I think this is a platform that Time Warner Cable Deportes is very eager to address. Soccer is still a young sport in many ways in this country and we definitely want to be a part of that momentum. We’re one piece of it. We know there are other networks that are all hoping to do the same thing, and that’s something that we feel is very important for this country.
Are you taking part in forming how things will be covered on the network?
Celis: I hope I can be a part of the editorial process for the shows. I have more than 20 years experience in Spanish TV and I’d be happy if they ask my opinion. When I went to Time Warner Cable to the building over there in L.A., they were setting it up and I saw the main control for Time Warner Cable Deportes and it looks awesome. They have the best technology. I can’t tell you any specifics about the technology, but what I saw was really, really good.
What specifically do you bring to the table?
Celis: I think it would a little arrogant to talk about myself and my work. But I’m pretty sure I’m going to show the viewers, with my experience and my knowledge of the sports, on the air. I know all the talent they have in Time Warner Cable Deportes. I worked with them in the past, especially with Adrian Garcia Marquez. He’s going to be doing the play-by-play with the Lakers. I have a really good relationship with him. We used to do, like 10 years ago, "Contacto Deportivo," a show on Telefutura, and the chemistry that we have, it’s real—it was unique. People still comment about the chemistry we had. With Marquez and Pinto doing the [Lakers] show, it’s going to be amazing.
Ricardo, you’ve worked in entertainment as well as sports. Will you use your knowledge of the entertainment world to make the network more fun?
Celis: Definitely. Our main goal is to inform and entertain. Because if you don’t entertain your audience, especially the Hispanic audience, they’re going to switch channels. So we have to make this show—the whole network—very entertaining. We’re going to show our specific way to do things. That’s one of the main reasons I took this job. For me it was hard to move from coast to coast, from Miami to L.A., for any job, but when Pablo Urquiza [vp, Time Warner Cable Deportes] explained everything that Time Warner is doing with the Lakers, it was a great opportunity for me.
Why were you driven to accept this position and make the move from Miami to L.A.?
Celis: When I spoke with Pablo Urquiza, he was the main guy hiring me, and he told me that the relationship they have with the Lakers is going to be for the long haul. And right now in Spanish [-language] television there are a lot of things changing. There are a lot of networks coming into the United States; there’s a lot of competition. And I think competition is great. It’s not only the shows, it’s not only working with the Lakers, but it’s the people. He hired a lot of people that I know are going to bring a lot to the table—not only in front of the camera, but behind the camera. He put a great team together for Time Warner Cable Deportes.
I hope people will give us a chance. I know there are lots of channels around there, so I just want people to watch ours and decide for themselves. The Latino audience can choose if they want to watch it in Spanish or they can watch it in English. And it I think it’s great. It was about time that an NBA team decided to do something for the Hispanic audience.