The U.S. men’s soccer team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, a development that is likely to put a crimp in the ratings and revenue Fox will be able to generate in its first effort at broadcasting the tournament.
Fox is reportedly paying between $450 million and $500 million to FIFA for U.S. video rights to the World Cup. In 2011, Fox won the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 Cups, replacing ESPN, and was later awarded the 2026 Cup.
Fox had been rooting for the Americans to qualify for the competition, as the team has for the past 30 years. But the U.S. lost to Trinidad and Tobago Tuesday night, while Honduras and Panama won their games, leaving the U.S. on the outside looking in.
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Interest in both men’s and women’s soccer has been steadily growing over the year but without a home team to root for it will be difficult for Fox to attract viewers who are not already fans of soccer to tune in.
Fox said it remained upbeat about the World Cup despite the U.S. team's failure.
"Last night’s World Cup qualifying results do not change Fox Sports’ passion for the world’s biggest sporting event. While the U.S. was eliminated, the biggest stars in the world from Lionel Messi to Cristiano Ronaldo stamped their tickets to Russia on the same day, and will battle teams ranging from Mexico to England that have massive fan bases in America, a Fox Sports spokesperson said. "The World Cup is the greatest sporting event on earth that changes the world for one month every four years, and Fox Sports remains steadfast in our commitment of bringing the games to America for the first time in 2018 and will continue to support the U.S. Soccer Federation as they look ahead to the 2022 World Cup."
The World Cup will be held in Russia starting June 14 and ending July 15.
Fox has already signed up a number of sponsors for its World Cup coverage. Last month it announced that Verizon will sponsor the half-time shows of matches and that Volkswagen will be the sponsor of post-game shows.
At a World Cup kickoff event in new York, Fox said more than a dozen advertisers have signed up and that the network was in advanced discussions with FIFA partners including adidas and Coca-Cola.
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Fox Sports is planning to air 350 hours of World Cup programming during the month-long tournament.
Its daytime and late night studio coverage will originate from Red Square in Moscow. The network has built a two story broadcast complex with two sets, a main anchor desk and an interview room that will be used for its World Cup Live morning show, World Cup Today, a highlight program, and World Cup Tonight, which will recap each day's play.
Fox’s coverage will include digital content including 15 original series on Fox Sports Go and programming using virtual reality technology.
Fox Sports is also working with 21st Century Fox sister company National Geographic, which is creating multiplatform coverage from Nat Geo’s photographers, videographers and journalists.