MISSED OPPORTUNITY TO CAPITALIZE ON U.S. SOCCER'S SUCCESS
Published July 20, 1995
The U.S. national soccer team plays Brazil tonight in the semifinals of the Copa America in Uruguay, but U.S. TV viewers will only be able to see the game on pay-per-view, via satellite or at a bar. In San Jose, Ann Killion calls the situation "extremely irritating": "This is not some offbeat competition, not any bogus Extreme Games." The U.S. TV rights to Copa America are held by Prime Deportiva, the Spanish-language cable sports channel which has most of its 1.4 million subscribers situated in L.A. The South American soccer confederation sold the rights in January '94, before the World Cup, and before it was known that the U.S. would play in the tournament. Because of Prime Deportiva's limited audience, the channel has "farmed" coverage out to pay-per-view. Officials at the U.S. Soccer Federation "shrug their shoulders and claim the situation is beyond their control." But, as Killion notes, "a standard part of signing a tournament agreement is figuring out television rights, and the U.S. undoubtedly could have added a proviso that it get the rights to its games in its own country. ... What it boils down to is shortsightedness and bad planning -- all the things that plague soccer in this country" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 7/20). Prime's Denise Seomins notes that 22 million homes have access to the games through Request TV and Viewer's Choice (USA TODAY, 7/20).