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Volume 24 No. 112
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Fox Could Put Big World Cup Focus On Mexican National Team With USMNT Out

With the USMNT failing to qualify for the '18 FIFA World Cup, Fox could "spend even more marketing dollars and heft" on the Mexican national team, "given the potential audience," according to Richard Deitsch of SI.com. Fox owns the English-language rights to the Mexican national team in the U.S., and at the World Cup launch party last month, Fox Sports President & COO Eric Shanks said that the net "would market the Mexican national team" as their "second team during the tournament." Shanks: "We are embracing El Tri and we have since the Confederations Cup. We have the Gold Cup every two years." But Deitsch noted the USMNT's elimination still is a "disaster for Fox Sports," and the "dollars lost will be huge." The group stage has 48 of the tournament’s 64 matches -- which is a "ton of advertising inventory." But "nothing will change" with the production of the tournament. The marketing will also "likely shift to a much heavier push earlier on international stars" such as Argentina F Lionel Messi, Brazil F Neymar and Portugal F Cristiano Ronaldo. Shanks: "This country has evolved from a soccer fandom where they are super interested in Neymar, Messi, Ronaldo. If you were a soccer fan in the world, this would be the place for you to live. You get more world class soccer here. This is a soccer country." But Deitsch wrote "not all is lost." Soccer is "far more popular" in the U.S. in '17 than in the past, and the numbers for the next year's final will "still be robust." But the "pain felt early is going to be severe" (SI.com, 10/11).

GUT PUNCH: AD AGE's Anthony Crupi wrote there is "no way to overstate just how crushing a blow this development is for Fox." With the tournament being held "halfway around the world in Russia, Fox was already at bit of a disadvantage." But the loss of the U.S. is "almost certain to eliminate the casual fans that help pump up the ratings." If there is a "silver lining to be found in any of this, it's that Fox probably wasn't going to have a shot at cashing in on a lengthy U.S. run" anyway because it is "nearly impossible to imagine that the same U.S. team that fumbled so badly throughout the qualifiers was going to advance past the group stage." Should Messi or Ronaldo "make it through to the final ... Fox should at least come away with a strong TV turnout" (ADAGE.com, 10/11).

FALLING SHORT: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Flint, Vranica & O'Reilly cite sources as saying that without the U.S., Fox will "likely be dealing with lower viewership, which means a tougher time selling advertising and potential shortfalls on the ratings guarantees for ad packages that have already been sold." Significant revenue "may be at stake." According to ad-tracker Kantar Media, ESPN brought in $529M in advertising revenue for the '14 World Cup, and "top advertisers spent more" than $30M each on U.S. ads for the event. If Fox "doesn’t deliver the audiences guaranteed in ad packages that have already been sold, the company may be forced to give marketers" make-goods. Many advertisers' overall interest in the World Cup will "likely remain strong since it offers an unmatched opportunity for brands to get their messages out around the world" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/12). In N.Y., Kevin Draper notes Fox Exec VP/Ad Sales Bruce Lefkowitz last month said that about 75% of the "'marquee' sponsorship deals for the World Cup had been sold" -- suggesting Fox could be "somewhat insulated from the impact" of the U.S. missing out. But without the U.S., Fox "may not be able to meet its ratings guarantees it gave advertisers." Efforts to "use the World Cup telecasts to promote other Fox programming will also be diminished." Budweiser and Verizon said that their strategy "had not changed." Coca-Cola, Visa and McDonald’s "emphasized the global nature of the World Cup as the reason they became FIFA partners" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/12).