Shocking the sports world, not to mention the broadcasting world, the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament will not be on Univision. It was outbid by NBCUniversal’s Telemundo for the US Spanish TV rights. Also, Fox Sports outbid ESPN to take away the English rights.
It was another example of the escalating price of live sports rights. The previous package of the 2010 and 2014 World Cup rights cost Univision $325 million and ESPN $100 million. According to Sports Business Daily, Fox Sports more than quadrupled the English rights price, with a winning bid over $400 million. Telemundo nearly doubled the previous price for the Spanish rights with a winning bid of $600 million.
Telemundo announced that the agreement includes exclusive US Spanish language all platform media rights (excluding radio) for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada – the year before NBCUniversal broadcasts the 2016 Rio Olympic Games – the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, FIFA Confederations Cup and all Under-20 and Under-17 FIFA World Cup matches in this time period. Additionally, the all-encompassing media agreement includes exclusive coverage and promotion of FIFA soccer events across multiple NBCUniversal properties including Spanish-language broadcast and cable television, Internet, broadband, wireless and Video-On-Demand.
“This landmark deal for Telemundo represents perhaps the greatest milestone in its history,” said Lauren Zalaznick, Chairman, NBCUniversal Entertainment & Digital Networks and Integrated Media. “The acquisition of the FIFA World Cup, one of the world’s great sporting events, speaks directly to the commitment NBCUniversal has made in the future of Telemundo and to our diverse US Hispanic communities that we serve.”
“We are 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,” said Emilio Romano, President of 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.”
Over the weekend Fox Sports posted only the official FIFA announcement confirming that it had won the US English media rights, including radio, to FIFA World Cup football across all platforms from 2015 to 2022, which includes the 2018 FIFA World Cup and 2022 FIFA World Cup, the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup and 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, and other FIFA events.
“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,” said a statement from ESPN confirming that it had lost the bidding.
RBR-TVBR observation: This is a sea change for Spanish television in the US. Univision has used the World Cup for many years to establish itself as the undisputed sports leader in US Spanish-language sports – undisputed until now. New owner Comcast not only backed NBCU in bidding aggressively to retain the Olympics, but apparently also gave Telemundo the green light to do what it takes to become a real competitor to Univision.