Fox and Others Will Feel Pain of U.S. Absence at World Cup

In 2011, Fox paid more than $400 million for the English-language broadcast rights in the United States for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups — four times as much as ESPN had paid to broadcast the 2010 and 2014 Cups. Verizon and Volkswagen signed up to sponsor Fox’s halftime and postgame shows.

A portion of the audiences for those shows was lost Tuesday night when the United States bowed out. Even a riveting tournament next summer — which will include most of the world’s top soccer powers, including Brazil, Germany and Argentina — will not attract the same number of casual viewers who would follow the American team.

Stefan Szymanski, co-author of “Soccernomics” and a University of Michigan professor, said that the financial impact on World Cup broadcasters in the United States — Fox and Telemundo — would be the largest. But, in an email message, he cautioned that “this is all a bit tricky,” and that the American-less World Cup would still draw strong viewership.

Brian Wieser, an analyst at Pivotal Research Group, agreed. Press reports indicating a $10 million to $20 million negative impact on “the current English-language rights holder Fox ‘feels’ right in this context,” he wrote in a research note, “and represents a negligible amount for Fox.”

ESPN broadcast all 64 World Cup games from Brazil in 2014, averaging 4.6 million viewers. Games not featuring the United States averaged just 3.9 million viewers. The four American games — against Ghana, Portugal, Germany and Belgium — accounted for almost 20 percent of ESPN’s total World Cup viewers.

Telemundo, which paid $600 million for the American Spanish-language rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, will also be negatively impacted, though not nearly as much. In 2014, the four United States matches accounted for about 9 percent of Univision’s total World Cup audience. Fortunately for Telemundo, Mexico advanced…

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