February 13th, 2015
In perhaps the biggest global sporting news of the year, it’s looking like FOX will will continue to hold onto one of ESPN’s top golden gooses, as the News Corp-owned stationÂ was awarded the 2026 World Cup this past Wednesday (FOXÂ alreadyÂ held rights to the women’s and men’s cups through 2022).
In a surprise move, FIFA skipped the bidding process and announcedÂ ThursdayÂ that Fox and Telemundo have been awarded U.S. broadcast rights to the 2026 World Cup.
The two networks kick off their inaugural World Cup broadcasts this summer with the Womenâ€™s World Cup from Canada. Telemundo will retain Spanish-language rights while Fox keeps the English-language rights.
It’s possible however that the biggest news was in how FIFA awarded FOX the rights, and not necessarily who they went to. For the first time in the modern era of cable, FIFA bypassed any bidding procedure, which while not required, isÂ nonetheless extremely common especially for events of this size.
Though the amount was not disclosed, but FOX paid $425 million for the next two men’s andÂ women’sÂ cups (2015, 2018, 2019, 2022), and the 2026 cup will likely be in the $200-300 million dollar range as well.
Speaking to the press FOX Sports officials were on hand and quite clearlyÂ excited to be making another push to compete with ESPN.
â€œWeâ€™re very pleased that FIFA allowed us to extend our deal as the exclusive U.S. Spanish-language broadcaster of FIFA World Cup tournaments through 2026,â€ added Joe Uva, Chairman of Hispanic Enterprises and content, NBCUniversal.Â â€œThis unprecedented agreement gives our Telemundo and NBC Universo viewers and digital consumers more of the worldâ€™s best soccer for the next twelve years.”
FIFA’s president echoed those sentiments, “â€œThese agreements guarantee wide distribution for FIFA tournaments across the US and Canada. Together, we will be able to further promote football in North America and build on the impressive interest shown by audiences in these major territories during the 2014 FIFA World Cup,â€ said FIFA Director of TV Niclas Ericson.”
It’s easy to see why. “European Football” popularity in the US has been on the rise over the past few years and the quick strike by Fox to add four years is another sign of how hot a topic soccer has become for US sport networks in general. The ’14 World Cup from Brazil resulted in record viewership for ESPN and Univision; the final between Germany and Argentina drew over 26 million across both networks.
Action of this kind could also be viewed as a method for soccer’s ruling body to placate FOX, since the ’22 World Cup is set to be held in Qatar and could be moved to the winter due to the middle eastern countryâ€™s inafmous summer hat. In that event, Fox would likely have to shelve its primetime lineup in the same way NBC does during Winter Olympic years.
The 2026 World Cup could be very lucrative for Fox and Telemundo. With Europe and Asia blocked from submitting bids to host the tournament, the U.S. â€“ which made a strong push for the 2022 tournament â€“ could be the favorite the host, which would surely boost TV viewership.
Categories: DISH & TV news