Stamford-based NBC Sports Group has assigned about 50 people to work on World Cup production from Russia or its East Side headquarters as part of its support of sister organization Telemundo’s coverage of the world’s most-watched soccer competition.

As the cup’s exclusive Spanish-language carrier in the U.S., Telemundo will air live all 64 games of the tournament, which kicks off Thursday. A total of about 500 people working in and around the 12 stadiums in Russia, and backed by teams at Telemundo’s headquarters in Miami and the NBC Sports center in Stamford, are contributing to Telemundo’s coverage.

“For the Spanish-speaking audience, there’s no bigger sporting event on the planet,” said Jim Bell, executive producer of Telemundo’s World Cup coverage and president of NBC Sports’ Olympics production and programming. “It made a lot of sense for us, with the timing in the calendar, for those of us who normally work on the Olympics to work on this effort.”

Bell said he and his colleagues at NBC Sports were keen to use their experience covering the winter and summer Olympics to help build narratives in Telemundo’s programming, to showcase the top teams and players in the 32-country competition.

“The key similarity is that the World Cup and Olympics draw in a healthy number of casual fans who might not normally follow the sports that have been taking place,” Bell said. “We’re excited about what we can bring to the production with our storytelling.”

For the first time since 1986, a U.S. men’s team will not be at the World Cup. Telemundo officials hope to offset the Americans’ absence with deep runs by the eight teams from Spanish-speaking countries: Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Spain and Uruguay.

The tournament will also benefit from the participation of nearly all of its superstars, including Argentina’s Lionel Messi, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Brazil’s Neymar Jr.

“It’ll be interesting to see if there’s a team that the U.S. adopts, a team that people fall in love with,” Bell said. “It will also be fascinating to see if an underdog team emerges.”

Comprehensive coverage

Telemundo will air 56 of the matches on its broadcast channel of the same name and eight on its cable channel, Universo. In addition, NBC Sports’ cable channel, NBCSN, will televise its first World Cup match in Spanish, Sunday’s matchup between Brazil and Switzerland.

Fox will carry the English-language broadcasts of the games in the U.S.

“Telemundo is essentially saying that in the U.S.,the Spanish-speaking market for soccer is much bigger than the English-speaking market,” said Kevin McEvoy, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Connecticut. “Rather than fight with Fox over the English-speaking market, they’ve focused on their core market, which is a Spanish-speaking audience.”

Andrés Cantor, a five-time Emmy winner known for his signature “gol!” calls, will lead play-by-play announcing duties.

In total, Telemundo will deliver more than 500 hours of programming across its broadcast and cable channels and more than 1,000 hours of original content across Telemundo’ digital platforms. It will live-stream every game on its En Vivo app and TelemundoDeportes.com.

Telemundo reportedly paid approximately $600 million for the rights to this year’s cup and the next one, in 2022, in Qatar. Its contract also covers the next two women’s World Cups and runs through the 2026 World Cup. On Wednesday, the U.S., Mexico and Canada were announced as the joint hosts of the 2026 tournament.

Telemundo and NBC Sports comprise two divisions of NBCUniversal, whose parent company is Comcast.

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