It's going to be harder to watch the World Cup on Univision at your desk come Friday. And if you have Comcast, you're out of luck completely.
Univision, which had the most-viewed telecast in its history this week, is switching over from a free streaming service (which it's been providing for the entirety of the World Cup so far) to an authenticated version of the same, requiring viewers to log in using credentials from their cable providers. It's a move likely to please cable operators and infuriate subscribers, many of whom are enjoying the matches in Spanish whether or not they speak the language because of easy access to the stream. ESPN, being a cable network, required authentication from the get-go.
Univision spokeswoman Monica Talan described the free stream as "an open trial period for group matches and the round of 16."
"The objective was to encourage sampling of the Univision Deportes app, build an audience, then educate that audience on the benefits of TV Everywhere via a robust marketing/education campaign," Talan said. "Starting on July 4th, users will need to sign in with their pay TV credentials. Users will be taken through a step-by-step process on how to do this." That education program seems to have been absorbed pretty dramatically by the viewing public—people love the stream—but on Friday, futbol fans may be learning a different lesson entirely.
Talan also confirmed something you might notice if you're perusing the logos of participating cable companies at the bottom of the page announcing the change: "The livestream will not be available to Comcast subscribers at this time." Comcast owns Telemundo, Univision's largest competitor (though Univision is still much larger), and the broadcaster of the 2018 (and subsequent) World Cup matches—they don't have a TV Everywhere deal with Univision at the moment.
The network has enjoyed incredible ratings from the matches thus far. The France-Nigeria game (which took place in the middle of the working day) pulled in some 931,000 demo viewers, and the Germany-Algeria match managed 1.3 million (which also aired before quitting time). Since much of the viewership is taking place in bars, conference rooms and yes, in little video windows you can hide from your boss as she walks by your desk, those stats are impressive indeed.