Fox Sports wins World Cup soccer bid

Updated: October 21, 2011, 8:19 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

ZURICH -- FIFA cashed in on a $1.2 billion bonanza from United States broadcasters Friday, striking World Cup deals with Fox, Telemundo and Spanish language radio.

Fox won the English-language U.S. television rights for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments, outbidding incumbent ESPN and NBC for soccer's showpiece tournament.

Fox agreed to pay around $425 million for the two-tournament package, a person familiar with the bidding told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because the figure was not made public. It also secured English-language radio rights.

ESPN and Univision paid a combined $425 million for the existing deal.

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

Telemundo paid around $600 million for the Spanish-language deal, the person said. Telemundo, which is owned by NBC Universal, also defeated a rights holder, Univision, which had paid $325 million for the 2010-2014 package.

Spanish-language radio rights went to Futbol de Primera Radio for more than $100 million.

Fox will own the rights to all FIFA events from 2015 to 2022, including the men's World Cup in '18 and '22; the women's World Cup in '15 and '19; and all Under-20 and Under-17 matches.

ESPN, which will televise the 2014 event in Brazil, said in a statement: "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.

"ESPN 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."

Fox adds soccer's biggest event to a portfolio of rights that includes the UEFA Champions League, the English Premier League and Italy's Serie A.

The network is expected to televise the final and some top matches on its main over-the-air network and the majority on Fox Soccer and other of its cable networks, such FX and Fox Soccer Plus. That is similar to The Walt Disney Co. formula, which has been to televise the final and a few matches on ABC, but most on ESPN and ESPN2.

Acquiring FIFA rights is expected to drive distribution for Fox Soccer with cable carriers. Fox Soccer is avaiable in 40 million U.S. households, while ESPN and ESPN2 are each available in nearly 99 million.

ESPN also broadcast the 2010 World Cup in South Africa after getting a two-tournament package with 2014 rights. ESPN paid $100 million and Univision paid $325 million for its 2010-2014 deal, making the U.S. FIFA's most lucrative national market.

FIFA made the decisions after the networks submitted bids at its Swiss headquarters on Wednesday and Thursday.

Spanish-language radio rights went to Futbol de Primera Radio.

FIFA earns about 90 percent of its revenue from broadcasting, sponsorship and marketing deals tied to the World Cup. The world body calculates it earned $2.4 billion in broadcast sales worldwide just for the 2010 tournament.

Qatar defeated the U.S. in the final round of voting for the 2022 World Cup in a five-country contest last December.

FIFA announced in March it already sold $1.7 billion worth of 2018-2022 broadcast rights to the Middle East and parts of Asia and Latin America. The deals were 90 percent more valuable than the same regions earned for 2010-2014, FIFA said.

Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.

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