UPDATED: Fox Sports, Telemundo Win FIFA World Cup TV Rights

Fox Sports and Telemundo hit the back of the net on Friday, securing respective English and Spanish language U.S. media rights to the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup soccer tournaments, the networks announced in separate press releases Friday afternoon.

Fox has gained FIFA U.S. media rights for 2015 to 2022, which includes the men's and women's World Cup events, beating out incumbent ESPN, which has held the rights since 2010.

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

"We are truly honored for FIFA to award the Fox Sports Media Group these extremely important rights," David Hill, Fox Media Group chairman, said in a statement. "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."

Industry observers say the acquisition will give News Corp.-owned 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." NBCUniversal-owned Spanish-language network Telemundo scored FIFA's
Spanish-language U.S. TV rights package for 2015-22, ousting current
rights holder Univision, the network confirmed Friday afternoon.

Telemundo and its local stations as well as sister cable network mun2, and all of Telemundo Media's associated online platforms will feature coverage of all FIFA Men and Women's World Cup games from 2015 through 2022, according to network officials.

Telemundo and mun2 will provide extensive coverage of the FIFA Confederations Cup, FIFA Men's and Women's U-17 World Cup, FIFA Men's and Women's U-20 World Cup as well as live coverage of the official draws and ceremonies.

Telemundo president Emilio Romano said in a statement that the network was "extremely honored to be the Spanish-language home of the FIFA World Cup Soccer from 2015-2022 and bring this powerful property to our viewers with the high-production value they have come to expect from Deportes Telemundo. Soccer is much more than a sport; it is a cultural phenomenon that inspires billions around the world and unites every community in a single language, the language of soccer. We are delighted to partner with FIFA to continue to grow the game of soccer in the United States."

Terms of the deal were not released, but The Wall Street Journalreported 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 -- while Reuters reported that Telemundo paid a hefty $600 million for its FIFA rights.

Berke said the network will most likely look to make up the additional cost through higher retransmission consent revenue.

"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 retrans 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."

ESPN early today confirmed that its bid had lost out. "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."

It's unclear how much Fox and Telemundo paid for the FIFA rights, which also include rights to the 2015 and 2019 women's World Cup and all Under-20 and Under-17 matches.

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."

Univision said: "We thank FIFA for the opportunity to participate. On our part we look forward to continue to be the number one destination for soccer programming. As always, we remain committed to prudently evaluating content investments to ensure that we dedicate our resources toward an optimum mix of the news, sports and entertainment programming our audiences love most."

Univision's continuing soccer coverage, it said, includes rights to 12 of the 18 Mexican League soccer teams, Spanish-language rights to the U.S. men's national soccer team, Mexican men's national soccer team, CONCACAF Gold Cup and CONCACAF Champions League, CONMEBOL Copa America and MLS.

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.