Why Russian Networks Got Soccer World Cup Rights for a Fraction of the Asking Price

World Cup Iran Argentina Match - H 2014
AP Photo/Fernando Vergara

World Cup Iran Argentina Match - H 2014

A consortium of three networks will pay $32 million for the 64 matches to be played in the country in the summer, compared with $120 million originally targeted.

Three Russian networks have picked up TV rights in the country for the 2018 soccer World Cup, which will take place in Russia, for $32 million, a fraction of the original asking price of $120 million.

2 Sport 2, a consortium of Channel One, Rossiya, which is part of state-run media giant VGTRK, and Match TV, part of the media arm of natural gas giant Gazprom, will split the 64 World Cup matches between them.

Formed in 2015, Match TV will be airing a soccer World Cup for the first time, while Channel One and Rossiya have jointly aired in Russia all major international sports events for the last couple of decades.

Neither FIFA, the international soccer association, nor the networks have commented on why the price tag went down so significantly. However, when the original asking price was announced in early 2017, experts noted that it was unrealistic, pointing out that Russian networks had paid only $40 million for the TV rights to the previous World Cup in Brazil.

In April, sports minister Pavel Kolobkov said Russia was determined to negotiate a better deal for its networks. "This will be a long process of bargaining with [FIFA]," he said at the time.

Later, Vitaly Mutko, deputy prime minister for sports affairs and president of the Russian Soccer Union, said that Russian networks were not prepared to pay more than $40 million.

The 2018 soccer World Cup will take place from June 14 through July 15 and include 32 teams.