Fox, Not ESPN, Expected To Be Awarded FIFA World Cup Rights For '18, '22
The FIFA World Cup will have two new U.S. TV partners in '18 and '22, with several sources saying that Fox and Telemundo will pick up the broadcast rights. Sources said Fox has agreed to pay $450-500M for the English-language rights to the next two events, scheduled for Russia and Qatar. NBC-owned Telemundo has agreed to pay around $600M for the Spanish-language rights, sources said. The bids represent huge increases over what ESPN and Univision paid for the '10 and '14 events. ESPN in '05 agreed to pay $100M; Univision agreed to pay $325M. FIFA has informed the bidders and has indicated that it wants to wait until Friday afternoon to make a formal announcement. Neither Fox nor Telemundo would comment on the World Cup bidding. The decision to award the rights to Fox and Telemundo is a shocking development, since incumbents ESPN and Univision were widely believed to be the front-runners to retain the World Cup rights. Bids initially were submitted in Zurich on Wednesday, with a second round of bids being submitted Thursday afternoon.
ESPN, UNIVISION OUTBID: In separate statements, ESPN and Univision said they were simply outbid for the rights. ESPN said, "We made a disciplined bid that would have been both valuable to FIFA and profitable for our company, while continuing to grow our unprecedented coverage of the World Cup and Women's World Cup events. We were aggressive while remaining prudent from a business perspective." In its statement, ESPN said it was committed to covering soccer, referencing its deals with UEFA, EPL, La Liga and MLS. Given MLS' low ratings on ESPN, it will be interesting to see how aggressive ESPN will be to retain those rights when its MLS media deal expires in '14. Univision's statement also pointed out that the network was being fiscally prudent. "We thank FIFA for the opportunity to participate. On our part we look forward to continue to be the number one destination for soccer programming. As always, we remain committed to prudently evaluating content investments to ensure that we dedicate our resources toward an optimum mix of the news, sports and entertainment programming our audiences love most." In its statement, Univision referenced its other soccer coverage, which includes rights to 12 of the 18 Mexican League soccer teams, U.S. men's national soccer team, Mexican men's national soccer team, CONCACAF Gold Cup and CONCACAF Champions League, CONMEBOL Copa America and MLS.
COULD SPUR GROWTH OF FOX SOCCER CHANNEL: Fox and Telemundo picked up rights to 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. Fox is expected to use the rights to help its Fox Soccer Channel, which has a lot of room to grow. It is in just 39 million homes, according to Nielsen numbers from October. Distributors pay $0.17 per subscriber per month for the channel, according to SNL Financial.