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Volume 24 No. 116
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Fox Sports Dealt Big Blow To '18 World Cup Ratings, Revenue After USMNT Fails To Qualify

The USMNT failing to qualify for the '18 FIFA World Cup is "likely to put a crimp in the ratings and revenue Fox will be able to generate in its first effort at broadcasting the tournament," according to Jon Lafayette of BROADCASTING & CABLE. Fox is reportedly paying between $450-500M for the next three World Cups, but without a home team to root for next summer, it will be "difficult for Fox to attract viewers who are not already fans of soccer to tune in." Fox is "planning to air 350 hours of World Cup programming during the month-long tournament," and the net has built at Moscow's Red Square a "two story broadcast complex with two sets, a main anchor desk and an interview room" (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com, 10/10). BLOOMBERG NEWS' Eben Novy-Williams notes any "decrease in interest by American fans may have far-reaching effects" for Fox, which holds the domestic English-language rights. Fox said that its '18 World Cup coverage will be the "largest production in the network's 24-year history." The plan includes "more games on broadcast television than the last four World Cups combined" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 10/11). ESPN.com's Darren Rovell writes Fox "giving the advertisers the numbers they want might be difficult" without the U.S. playing (ESPNFC.com, 10/11). FORBES' Bobby McMahon writes the "biggest money loser will almost certainly" be Fox. Meanwhile, the U.S. Soccer Federation will "miss out on" the $12.5M paid by FIFA for "preparation and making it [to] the group stage." The USSF will "also miss out on gate revenue and TV rights fees from pre-World Cup friendly matches." There will also be "clauses in sponsorship and merchandise agreements that will not be triggered on account of this failure" (FORBES.com, 10/11).

KEEPING FANS' INTEREST: NEWSWEEK's Teddy Cutler writes there is "no doubt that the World Cup, the most prominent global sporting event, will still attract interest" in the U.S. even without the USMNT. The '14 Germany-Argentina final was the "third most-watched soccer game" in the U.S. of all time. Cutler: "How many of those, though, were left over or energized into watching by the USMNT's success may be a problem for Fox." One potential solution for the net is to "take advantage of the vast Mexican diaspora in the U.S. and focus its programming" on the Mexican team (NEWSWEEK.com, 10/11). BUSINESS INSIDER's Tyler Lauletta writes Fox will "have to dig a bit deeper to find compelling storylines for American fans to root for in the biggest tournament in the world" (BUSINESSINSIDER.com, 10/11). ESPN's Mike Greenberg said of U.S. soccer fans, "Maybe they will still watch the World Cup because they'll get to see Messi and Ronaldo and all of the guys playing over there. But by and large, so many people tune in because it is a major international spectacle and you put your patriotism cap on and root for Team USA. With Team USA not being there, this is a devastating blow to the growth of soccer" ("Mike & Mike," ESPN Radio, 10/11).