Fox, Telemundo Score FIFA World Cup Rights

Fox Sports and Telemundo scored surprising
goals on Friday, securing, respectively, English- and
Spanish-language U.S. media rights to the 2018 and 2022
FIFA World Cup soccer tournaments.

FIFA, world soccer’s governing body, granted Fox Sports
U.S. media rights for 2015 to 2022, including the men’s and
women’s World Cup events and all under-20 and under-17
(age group) matches.

Fox outbid incumbent ESPN, which has held World Cup
rights since 2010.

The next World Cup is in Brazil in 2014, which will be
ESPN’s last under the current deal.

NBCUniversal-owned broadcaster Telemundo scored
FIFA’s Spanish-language U.S. TV rights package for 2015-22,
ousting current rights-holder Univision.

The Wall Street Journal
reported that Fox paid more than
$400 million for the rights — more than four times the $100
million ESPN paid for the current package and nearly matching
ESPN and Univision’s combined $425 million price tag for
the 2010-2014 package.

Reuters reported last Friday (Oct. 21) that Telemundo
paid a hefty $600 million for the FIFA Spanish-language U.S.
rights. Soccer is particularly popular among Latinos.

Fox obtained the U.S. radio rights, while Fútbol de Primera
Radio acquired the Spanish-language radio rights.

Telemundo said famed announcer Andres Cantor would
become the network’s “face of soccer” for FIFA World Cup


Analysts said the acquisition
would give Fox Sports a major
brand boost, particularly
with Hispanic viewers.

“It’s increasingly of greater
and greater value for the U.S.
You have more of an international
audience interested in
soccer in general,” sports industry
consultant Lee Berke
said. “Even if the [U.S. viewers]
don’t follow soccer on
a day to day basis, I think
the belief is once every four
years people love following
the best of the world.”

Lauren Zalaznick, chairman
of NBCUniversal Entertainment
& Digital Networks
and Integrated Media, said
in a release late Friday
afternoon: “This
landmark deal for Telemundo
perhaps the greatest
milestone in its history.
The acquisition of
the FIFA World Cup,
one of the world’s great
sporting events, speaks
directly to the commitment
has made in the future
of Telemundo and to
our diverse U.S. Hispanic
that we serve.”

Fox Sports Media
Group chairman David
Hill, in a similarly
timed statement, said:
“We are truly honored
for FIFA to award
the Fox Sports Media
Group these extremely
important rights. The
FIFA World Cup and
Women’s World Cup
are two of the world’s biggest competitions. It is our privilege
to be entrusted with these rights in the United States from
2015 through 2022.”

The deal will help boost
the value of Fox Soccer,
which undoubtedly
will offer live World Cup
games. The network currently
holds American
UEFA Champions League
rights, among other soccer

“Fox [Sports] now has
the opportunity to grow
Fox Soccer — they can
get the network on more
widely distributed tiers,
so there’s definitely an
upside for them,” Berke
said. “Between the UEFA
[Champions League] and
the World Cup games, they
can broaden the success of
Fox Soccer.”

ESPN said early last Friday:
“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.”

News Corp.’s Fox Sports,
which already has a global
sports footprint with networks
around the world, now
gains the ability to offer arguably
the biggest soccer events
through 2022. “They’re already
broadcasting soccer
around the globe, so they have
a great deal of resources to call
upon and economies of scale,”
Berke said.

ESPN said it “remains committed
to presenting the sport
of soccer at the highest level
across our platforms with coverage
of the UEFA European
Football Championship, English Premier League, La Liga,
MLS and other top leagues and tournaments, including the
2014 World Cup in Brazil.”


Sources within Comcast–controlled NBCUniversal, meanwhile,
called the FIFA Spanish-language rights acquisition
a “game-changer” for the Telemundo broadcast network.

Berke said Telemundo will most likely use the World Cup
as a vehicle to obtain higher retransmission-consent fees
from multichannel distributors.

“The power of soccer amongst Spanish-speaking
citizens in the U.S. is substantial,” Berke said. “It is the
top property bar none, and to have the top tournament
is going to be a great addition in terms of selling additional
advertising, boosting retransmission rights
— you become a must-carry in terms of the Hispanic
community. Whatever they’re investing in it they’ll see
a return, not only in ad dollars but in retrans fees when
they go up for renegotiation.”

Univision used 2010 World Cup games to help boost
Hispanic consumption of video-on-demand, a practice
Comcast-controlled Telemundo might be expected to

R. Thomas Umstead

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.