Fox Sports’s live 2022 FIFA World Cup coverage kicks off Sunday with a heavy emphasis on linear television for the 64-game tournament despite an unprecedented fall start, heavy competition from other North American major sports leagues and an unfriendly time difference between the U.S. and World Cup host country Qatar.
Still, Fox executives are confident the World Cup will attract both the hard-core sports fan and casual viewers with its coverage of the premiere soccer tournament. The Fox broadcast network will air 35 matches throughout the tournament, including the semi-final round games and the World Cup final, according to the network. FS1 will air the remaining 29 games live. Most Fox televised matches will air between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. ET.
The November start of the World Cup — prior tournaments took place during the summer — presented some logistical problems for Fox. The network airs a full complement of afternoon and evening college football games on Saturdays as well as Sunday-afternoon NFL contests. Fox Sports VP of programming and scheduling Daniela Jeffries said Fox Sports was able to work around its crowded schedule and the eight-hour time difference between Qatar and New York to develop a lineup allowing consumers to watch most of the games during reasonable viewing hours.
“There was a little concern about how this was all going to fit,” Jeffries told Multichannel News. “As the tournament revealed itself, we saw that it wasn’t so bad. There are some challenges in the sense that there are games that probably would have been Fox games versus cable games at a different time of the year, but overall we’re pretty happy and positioned to have over 200 hours, which is comparable to what we would have done in the summer when the schedule would have been lighter.”
Jeffries also said Fox Sports worked hard to make sure it could distribute all the games on broadcast or cable TV to broaden viewership. “We felt good about being able to get in as much linear coverage as we were,” she said.
Fans who wish to view World Cup games live online can watch on FoxSports.com, but only if they subscribe to a multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) or virtual MVPD service. Replays of every game will be available on the app, as well as on the Fox-owned Tubi.com streaming service through its World Cup FAST channel, including in high-resolution 4K format.
Fox will also make in-match previews and live pre- and post-match shows for every World Cup game available via the Fox Sports soccer Twitter account.
The addition of the digital outlets offers fans more options to consume World Cup news and highlights compared to 2018, as well as provides a powerful marketing tool to promote upcoming telecasts. “We’ll be able to offer more features and highlights available on the app and have replays on Tubi — all of which we weren’t able to offer in 2018,” Jeffries said.
Also different from 2018’s World Cup is this tournament will include the U.S. men’s soccer team, which was eliminated from participating in the World Cup four years ago. The network hopes to draw huge viewership for its USA-England Group B matchup, which will take place in the early afternoon on Black Friday, November 25.
Given the U.S. men’s team’s participation and Fox Sports broad distribution of the games, Sports TV analyst Lee Berke said the World Cup should perform well from a ratings perspective. In 2018 Fox and FS1 combined to average 2.6 million viewers, according to Nielsen.
“The games are airing during the busiest time of the sports year, but there’s a built-in audience for the games, and with matches airing early in the morning they’ll avoid running directly against college and pro football games,” he said. “It should achieve the numbers that they want to achieve this time around.”
NBCU’s Spanish-Language Coverage
NBC Sports Group holds the Spanish-language rights to the World Cup and will offer every World Cup game on Telemundo and, for the first time, on NBCU’s streaming service Peacock. Peacock will offer the first 12 matches free before making the remaining 52 games available to Peacock Premium (pay) subscribers, according to NBC Sports.
For NBC Sports and Telemundo, having both the broadcast and streaming platforms available for fans to view the games will help boost both awareness and viewership, said Berke.
“The two growing platforms for sports right now are broadcast and streaming,” he said. “The Peacock component in particular will provide a substantial boost overall across different screens.”
The U.S. soccer team’s group stage games are listed below (all times ET). The full 2022 World Cup schedule can be found here. ▪️
- Nov. 21: U.S.-Wales (2 p.m.)
- Nov. 25: England-U.S. (2 p.m.)
- Nov. 29: Iran-U.S. (2 p.m.)
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R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.