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October 29, 2013

A World Cup Dream Realized

Walt Disney has said: “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” While in his final year of law school, Mauricio Pedroza did exactly that by deciding to follow his dream of working for ESPN. He was the winner of the 1st season of “Dream Job: El Reportero,” an ESPN Deportes competition held every four years that invites one lucky fan to join its team to cover the World Cup. Not only did get a shot at covering the World Cup in Germany, but he landed a job with the network. He has reported for “SportsCenter,” “Futbol Picante” and regularly hosts “Nacion ESPN.” We took a moment to talk to him about the upcoming season of “Dream Job: El Reportero,” the influx of networks geared toward Hispanic audiences and the evolution of soccer coverage in the U.S.

What drove you to take part in this competition?

I’ve always been a huge sports fan—and actually I’ve always been a huge ESPN fan. So I did my casting in Mexico City and that’s where it all started. I was fortunate enough to win and then to go and compete for the big prize with the other cast of winners. That was my first contact ever with journalism and even a TV show, so to me everything was new. It was just great to be a part of it. Then to actually get to win it and then stay at ESPN, it was great. I’ve been part of the company for seven years now.

What did you feel you did to stand out from the rest of your competitors?

I knew that we were going to be asked a lot about World Cup soccer history, so I read as much as I could; I watched a lot of videos, a lot of film. And something that made a difference… was that I felt no pressure whatsoever. A lot of guys that had previous experience or were actually working for other media outlets, and… I think that that was their only shot to be a part of ESPN. I was enjoying the whole ride. So I think that made a difference because I was able to be myself—to actually show the judges what I knew [about] the World Cup.

The show is now in its 3rd season. How do you think the competition has changed since 2006?

Well, it has changed a lot. In 2006, social media wasn’t really big at the time. Facebook was probably there already… Twitter wasn’t even there, and information didn’t come as fast as it does now. So for the 3rd season I’m actually expecting the guys to be more prepared, to have more knowledge. And now they know that the shot is really to be a part of ESPN. I knew that my prize was to be part of the coverage for the World Cup in Germany, but I never thought it would actually give me the chance to be involved with ESPN for such a long time. The winner from the 2nd season, Daniela Rodriguez, is also still part of ESPN.

For the 3rd season social media is going to be a huge part of the competition. So that’s going to make a big difference. Now, I’m guessing we’re going to have more people competing than four years ago, and eight years ago when I first was part of it.

Many networks have been created in recent years that are geared more towards Hispanic consumers. Could you discuss the importance of having networks like ESPN Deportes that are geared towards a Hispanic audience?

Well I think it’s huge. I think Latinos and Hispanics are the biggest minority in the United States… We [play] sports, but I think sports are also a big part of our Latin and Hispanic culture. For people living in the US to be able to watch their teams that they grew up watching, they grew up supporting, to have them on TV living in the US–I think it gives them a lot of what they left behind in Mexico and other Hispanic and Latin countries. So roles that channels and networks like ESPN Deportes, Fox Deportees, Telemundo… We mean a lot for those people. And we have a huge responsibility with that, and competition’s increasing—which is always good. We embrace competition, because … the end result is actually better programming and a better product for the people who watch us.

The U.S. has been known to not follow soccer as well as the rest of the world. How do you think the Hispanic culture for soccer has affected viewership here in the U.S. in general?

I think it’s been having a huge impact now. If you see what ESPN domestic [English], is doing now with soccer, their coverage—the difference is huge [compared to] what they used to do four or eight years ago. Now you watch even important European leagues on big networks. NBC Sports is now carrying the Premier League, BeIN Sport is now carrying the Spanish league, and people are getting more involved with soccer.  The impact [of] the Hispanic culture has to do with that.

There was a bid for the World Cup and it was a huge competition between ESPN, NBC and Fox. [Fox] in the end, ended up with the rights to broadcast the next two World Cups for 2018 and 2022. Well, the bidding competition was serious and very heated. That speaks volumes of what soccer means now not only for the Hispanic culture, but also for the Anglo culture as well in the U.S.
 







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