ESPN, Univision Kick at FIFA over World Cup Bidding Snub

On the day after they learned they didn’t get an opportunity to bid for the FIFA cycle of media rights culminating with the 2026 World Cup, Univision and ESPN expressed their disappointment.

FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, announced on Feb. 12 that it had reached extensions with Fox Sports and Telemundo for another round of competitions spanning 2023 through 2026. That left Univision and ESPN, the long-time U.S.FIFA carriers, who were outbid by Fox and  NBCUniversal's Telemundo for the multiplatform rights for the 2015 through 2022 properties, on the outside looking in at the world's most popular sporting event through the next decade.   

Fox and Telemundo, which in October 2011 agreed to pay FIFA a reported $400 million and $600 million, respectively, in winning the bids for the 2015-22 cycles, will deliver their inaugural World Cup telecasts on June 6, when Canada hosts China in the Women's World Cup.

ESPN and Univision's presentations from Brazil last summer set a host of TV rating and digital records for the World Cup in this nation – and neither party was happy that they weren’t able to kick things around for a chance at the new cycle, which could include the U.S. hosting the 2026 tourney.

“We were not invited to be involved in this process,” said the worldwide leader in a statement Friday afternoon. “Considering the high-quality presentation that ESPN demonstrated and the exposure we brought to FIFA events through all our platforms, it was surprising and disappointing to learn of this when the press release was issued.”

Univision questioned FIFA’s gambit, noting it could serve to stunt soccer’s continued Stateside advances:  “We were not invited to participate in the process and find it curious that FIFA would think keeping the No. 1 Hispanic media company in the U.S. out of a competitive bidding process is good for the growth of soccer in the U.S.”