FIFA reportedly fell roughly $100 million short of its goal for Women’s World Cup broadcast rights fees ahead of the tournament’s kickoff in New Zealand on July 20.
The organization aimed to sign deals to value the WWC’s global broadcasting rights at $300 million, but it will instead settle for closer to $200 million, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. FIFA is on track to bring in about $50 million in new broadcast rights sales since last year’s men’s World Cup—about a third of the $150 million new fees it hoped to secure.
This year’s Women’s World Cup is the first in which FIFA separately sold broadcast rights to the tournament, a break from the past in which the rights were essentially given for free to broadcasters who bought rights to the men’s tournament.
After the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France drew 1.1 billion viewers globally, FIFA pushed to sell broadcast rights for the women’s tournament and expanded the field to 32 teams. However, European broadcasters’ initial bids to broadcast this summer’s WWC were so small—some 1% of their payments to stream the men’s World Cup—that FIFA president Gianni Infantino threatened to blackout the games in England, Germany, France, Spain, and Italy.
FIFA reached WWC agreements with broadcasters in Europe’s “Big Five” countries last month to avoid the blackout, but WSJ reports that the combined deals were signed for roughly half of the $65 million that FIFA hoped to fetch.
In the U.S., Fox has touted strong ad sales for its upcoming Women’s World Cup, selling out 90% of its inventory by June and 50% more than the 2019 tournament.
One of the reasons European broadcasters cited in low-balling deals for the Women’s World Cup is the tournament’s location in Australia and New Zealand, some 9 to 10 hours ahead of time zones in Europe. Fox Sports CEO Eric Shanks told Front Office Sports that the suboptimal time difference is why FIFA placed the USWNT in New Zealand instead of Australia.
“I think that’s a big reason why FIFA realized that it’s probably better for the U.S. national team to be based in New Zealand,” Shanks said. “One of the reasons probably is that time zone’s much more friendly to the U.S. So we’ll have the early games while they’re in New Zealand starting at like 9:00 PM Eastern. And then it kinda gets a little bit all over the place; they’re either gonna be primetime games or fairly earlier in the morning.”