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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Fox Sports Is Winning Its Bet on Soccer Media-Rights Deals

  • Copa América and Euro 2024 have produced record viewership.
  • In 2026, Fox will broadcast the FIFA World Cup, too.
Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

Fox Sports has gone all in on international soccer tournaments in recent years, and the major financial investment is paying off big-time.

The semifinals of Copa América and Euro 2024 begin Tuesday with plenty of star power left in both tournaments that have already produced record viewership for Fox, which owns U.S. media rights to each event. 

The group-stage match between the U.S. and Uruguay was the most-watched English-language Copa América telecast ever in the U.S., attracting 3.77 million viewers. Argentina’s victory over Ecuador on July 4 drew an audience of 1.86 million, which is a record number for a Copa América quarterfinal that doesn’t involve the U.S. The Euros had the most-watched round of 16 ever, with games averaging 1.98 million viewers. 

Best Yet to Come?

In Copa América, the draw of Lionel Messi (above) remains alive as the eight-time Ballon d’Or winner will lead Argentina against Canada, which has made a surprise run through the knockout round. Across the pond, England is looking to return to the final of the Euros after its loss to Italy in the championship match three summers ago produced the most-watched U.S. broadcast of the Euros with 6.48 million viewers on ESPN.

This is the first year that Fox is broadcasting the Euros after taking over the rights from ESPN. Next year, the UEFA Women’s Euro will similarly move from ESPN to Fox. Copa América has been broadcast by Fox since 2016. The financial terms of those deals are not known, but the real kicker for Fox is the network’s rights to the FIFA men’s and women’s World Cups, which have been a point of controversy. 

Trophy Hunting

In 2011, Fox won FIFA rights—also previously held by ESPN—after agreeing to pay $425 million for a contract running from ’15 to ’22. Then, in ’15, FIFA extended Fox’s deal until the ’26 World Cup, which would have been an extremely hot commodity for American broadcasters after ultimately being awarded to the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Several media outlets have reported that the move was to make-good for FIFA moving the ’22 World Cup in Qatar out of the traditional summer window and into the fall, when it competed with the NFL and college football, among other sports.

Despite the failure of the U.S. men’s national team in Copa América, a home FIFA World Cup in 2026 should be a win for Fox Sports. In addition to a shot at redemption for the Americans, the network will be broadcasting from familiar locales as the world’s biggest international soccer stars compete in front of 60,000 to 70,000 fans in many NFL stadiums. The energy around the World Cup will likely be higher than at Copa América, which early in the tournament saw many matches with half-capacity crowds.

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