After a pre-emptive bid by NBC Universal for both English- and Spanish-language rights for the next two World Cups was turned down by world soccer governing body FIFA, the rights were awarded to ABC/ESPN and Univision through 2014.
The resulting deal for the English-language package is valued at $100 million, with the more valuable Spanish-language rights commanding a $325 million fee. That combined total is a 120% increase from the previous deals for the 2002 and 2006 World Cups.
NBC’s take-it-or-leave-it bid, which sources say was for just above $300 million, was originally favored by FIFA’s Financial Committee. But eventually the Zurich-based organization’s executive committee chose to delay the process to allow others to get involved.
Fox also bid on the English-language rights, looking to leverage World Cup broadcasts to boost carriage for its Fox Soccer Channel cable network. Sources put Fox’s bid at more than $80 million. According to FIFA Director of Marketing and TV Jerome Valcke, Comcast was also involved in discussions.
The current English-language deal is held by Soccer United Marketing - an arm of Major League Soccer, which paid $40 million and cut a deal to air the games on ABC and the ESPN networks. FIFA decided this time around it wanted to only deal directly with television networks.
Both deals include the World Cups in 2010 and 2014, the Women’s World Cups in 2007 and 2011, as well as other assorted smaller soccer events.
ABC will air at least 10 matches live during the 2010 and 2014 men’s events, including the finals. The remaining matches will be carried live on ESPN and ESPN2. All matches will be available in high definition, and ESPN will also air a nightly highlight show during the tournament.
The deals also include multi-media rights, including mobile phone and broadband, as well as re-airs and cut-down versions via ESPN on Demand.