SBD/Closing Bell

Three English-Language Nets Could Bid For World Cup TV Rights

As many as three English-language U.S. TV networks will be travelling to Zurich next week to submit bids for the ‘18 and ‘22 FIFA Men’s World Cup events. Bids will be submitted Oct. 19. FIFA will also accept bids for Spanish-language rights at the same time, with Univision and Telemundo expected to make aggressive bids. It's not known if ESPN Deportes and Fox Deportes will create separate bids or be part of their parent companies' bid. ESPN in '05 paid $100M for a package which included rights to the '10 and '14 World Cup events. Univision paid $325M for the Spanish-language rights to those events. Given the growing popularity of soccer in the U.S., plus the skyrocketing cost of live sports, any new bid should see a healthy increase.

Once bids are submitted Oct. 19, FIFA is expected to decide whether to accept one of the bids later that week. FIFA could either accept one of the bids or go back to the networks if the bids are too close. ESPN, which has carried World Cup games in some fashion since ‘82, will be represented in Zurich by Exec VP/Content John Skipper and Senior VP/Programming & Global X Scott Guglielmino. Fox Sports is sending a small group led by Fox Soccer Exec VP & GM David Nathanson. NBC will send a delegation, but it's not known who will be in it. NBC Sports Group Chair Mark Lazarus is not scheduled to attend. Bidding will cover all FIFA events from ‘15-22, including the Men's World Cup in ‘18 and ‘22; the Women's World Cup in ‘15 and ‘19; and all U-20 and U-17 games.

The competition for soccer rights has become intense among U.S. media companies over the past year. In August, NBC picked up a package of 45 MLS games and four U.S. Men's national team games for $10M per year. That package previously had been on Fox Soccer. ESPN has the main MLS package and has carried every World Cup but one since '82. Turner Sports was the primary broadcaster of the '90 World Cup.

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