USA has missed its FIFA World Cup 2018 target. Fox Sports will be deprived of its goal.
After committing US $400 million to FIFA for the English language broadcast rights for the US territory, the US team’s presence at the Russia 2018 was the biggest pitch of the broadcaster, who had made a four-time higher bid over the previous rights cycle to outbid ESPN.
The turf battle between Fox and ESPN has intensified after the former had launched its own cable networks FS1 and FS2 in the USA to compete with the latter. After outbidding ESPN for the FIFA rights, Russia 2018 was Fox Sports biggest pitch to outscore the rival broadcaster. The Rupert Murdoch-owned broadcast network has planned 350 hours of programming on Fox and FS 1 around the World Cup.
USA’s presence at the 2018 World Cup was the pitch of broadcaster’s marketing campaign. US National Team coach Bruce Arena was brought forward to assure advertisers and media buyers at an event last month, where he had stated that “I will tell you this: We’re (the team) going to be there, and I’m going to miss all this great Fox coverage.”
Arena and his boys had failed to keep that promises. Next, Fox will find it hard to maintain the broadcast rating numbers it had promised to its sponsors. US national team’s first absence from the FIFA World Cup Finals ever since 1986 will severely impact the broadcast ratings in the US.
The 2014 World Cup ratings, which had been the most-viewed FIFA World Cup ever on English-language TV in the United States, can provide a good insight on the impact of US team’s absence is going to have on FOX.
US team’s four games against Belgium, Germany, Portugal, and Ghana had contributed for 20% of the total English language 2014 World Cup viewership in the USA. The remaining 60 matches had collectively fetched the rest 80%. The 64 matches broadcast had generated an average of 4,557,000 viewers per game. This was more than 30% up from 32,73,000 average viewers in 2010. The graphic below indicates how the four games featuring the USA had fared.
The matches involving the US team have registered an average of 14 million viewers per game against the tournament average of .45 million. That establishes the impact US matches would have made of Fox and FS1.
The broadcaster, having pledged more than $400 million for the rights of men’s World Cup in 2018 and 2002 and the women’s World Cup in 2015 and 2019, will have lots of damage control. Retaining viewers and advertisers faith is the first big challenge.
Immediately after US team’s elimination, Fox Sports had released a statement.
“Last night’s World Cup qualifying results do not change Fox Sports’ passion for the world’s biggest sporting event. While the US was eliminated, the biggest stars in the world from Lionel Messi to Cristiano Ronaldo stamped their tickets to Russia on the same day and will battle teams ranging from Mexico to England that have massive fan bases in America. The World Cup is the greatest sporting event on earth that changes the world for one month every four years, and Fox Sports remains steadfast in our commitment to bringing the games to America for the first time in 2018 and will continue to support the U.S. Soccer Federation as they look ahead to the 2022 World Cup,” the release read.
Fox had been fortunate to sign two important sponsors – Verizon for the halftime shows and Volkswagon for the post-match review shows. However, a big chunk of inventory still remains to be sold. That apart, the broadcaster will have the added pressure to meet the committed viewership numbers. The premium of the US game is already gone. The reliance now will be on to get the best out the knockout games. USA’s absence is going to his the projections for the group stage matches hard.
The game has grown in popularity over the years. The last World Cup final between Germany and Argentina had attracted 17.981 million viewers, only second to the US-Portugal game. That might well be better for Fox in the Russia edition. But the impact of the earlier games is going to be severe. For now, the game to outplay had brought Fox Sport completely on the back foot.
Women’s World Cup’s commercial contribution is virtually negligible. No doubt, Fox will now have to wait and rely heavily on the 2022 finals and pray that the US team does not let it down yet again.
Nike, the team kit sponsors, are the other major sufferers after Fox Sports. The apparel and shoe brand had extended by nine years it’s most recent deal that runs through the 2022 World Cup. The team’s loss severely affects the brand’s potential to capitalize on the precious investment for the next four years.