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Fox Beats Out ESPN for 2018, 2022 English-Language Soccer World Cup Rights

Landon Donovan
Getty Images

UPDATED: Telemundo outbid incumbent Univision for the Spanish-language TV rights.

NEW YORK - Fox Sports has won the English-language FIFA soccer World Cup rights for the 2018 and 2022 men's tournaments, beating out incumbent ESPN.

NBCUniversal-owned Telemundo won the Spanish-language rights, according to sources, upsetting incumbent Univision, the top-rated Spanish broadcaster in the U.S.

Fox picked up all English-language FIFA events from 2015 through 2022, including the rights to the women's World Cup in 2015 and 2019, as well as U-20 and U-17 games, Sports Business Daily said without outlining financial details.

FIFA did not reveal the price tag for the package, but it is said to be much higher than the $425 million that ESPN ($100 million) and Univision ($325 million) paid for the 2010 and 2012 World Cups. 

FIFA has informed the bidders and is planning to announce winners later on Friday or early next week, Sports Business Daily said. Bids were submitted in Zurich on Wednesday, with a second round of bids Thursday afternoon, it reported.

In statements, both Walt Disney-owned ESPN and Univision stressed the financially “disciplined” nature of their ultimately losing bids.

“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,” the ESPN statement said. “We were aggressive while remaining prudent from a business perspective.”

It added: "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.”

ESPN in 2005 paid $100 million for an English-language package that included rights to the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, according to the publication.

"We thank FIFA for the opportunity to participate," Univision said in a statement. "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 added: "Univision continues to be the number one destination for soccer programming among U.S. Hispanics, including 12 of the 18 Mexican League soccer teams, U.S. national soccer team, Mexican national soccer team, CONCACAF Gold Cup and CONCACAF Champions League, CONMEBOL Copa America, Major League Soccer, as well as many other key tournaments and thousands of hours of other top-rated games, tournaments and coverage."

NBCUni’s NBC Sports and Telemundo made a joint pitch Wednesday at FIFA headquarters in Zurich. But the focus, according to sources, was winning the matches for Telemundo. Lauren Zalaznick, chairman of NBCUniversal Entertainment & Digital Networks and Integrated Media, Gary Zenkel, president, NBC Olympics & executive vp, strategic partnerships, NBC Sports, NBC Sports Group, new Telemundo president Emilio Romano, and Jorge Hidalgo, the network’s senior executive vp of sports, represented NBCUni.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai