As expected, Fox Sports has renewed its exclusive media rights deals for three more seasons of the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League.
The announcement of the deal, news of which began to surface on Dec. 6, will enable various Fox properties to air action from the UEFA circuits during the 2015-16 season through the 2017-18 campaign.
The contract extensions – sources value the combined deals in the $150 million range -- maintain Fox’s position as the English- and Spanish-language rights-holders for Champions League, Europe’s top club competition, since the 2009-10 season and with Europa League since 2012-13. Fox is currently in the second of a three-season partnership with UEFA, soccer’s governing body in Europe, for both competitions extending through 2014-15, delivering for the first time all 146 UEFA Champions League matches from the playoff round through the title match to U.S. viewers.
Fox won the rights -- which were divided into separate proposals by language for both properties -- over two rounds, topping bids from Univision, NBC Sports Group and Telemundo, and BeIN Sports. Sources familiar with the process indicate that ESPN did not participate in the second round of bidding. However, some suggest sublicensing deals still could be struck.
The renewals are key moves for Fox. Flanking its acquisition of rights to Germany’s Bundesliga for five years, kicking off with the 2015-16 season, and a deal with UEFA for qualifying matches for Euro 2016 and the 2018 FIFA World Cup, half of the inventory for which will be passed to ESPN, Fox’s new Champions and UEFA League give it a full plate of futbol fare for Fox Sports 1 and Fox Soccer Plus ahead of its coverage of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
“We are elated to continue our partnership with UEFA and serve as home of its flagship properties through at least 2018,” said David Nathanson, general manager and COO of Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2. “The combination of UEFA Champions and Europa leagues provides viewers with the complete club competition experience at the highest level. The fact that all the leading European teams and players continue to be seen on one destination speaks to FOX Sports’ commitment to showcase the world’s best. No other sports television franchise has an elite international soccer schedule that even comes close.”
Once again, Fox Sports plans to carry 146 UEFA Champions League games annually throughout the term of the new agreement. The bulk of the matches will appear on rookie national cable network Fox Sports 1. Contests will also air on Fox broadcast, notably the final, Fox Sports 2 and premium service Fox Soccer Plus, as well as on its regional sports networks on a live and delayed basis. The matches will also be available on its authenticated/premium broadband platforms Fox Sports GO and FoxSoccer2GO, with all matches carried live and on-demand. Digital highlight clips also continue to be exclusive to FoxSports.com and FoxSoccer.com.
The 2011 Champions League Final between Barcelona and Manchester United was the most-watched soccer match on Fox to date, netting 2.6 million viewers. It also stands as the most-watched UEFA match ever in the U.S.
Fox Deportes will carry 122 Champions League matches live and on-delay, featuring 10 matches weekly. The Spanish-language service will also be deep in the mix with Europa League, the second-level club competition that has held matches since 1971. All told, Fox outlets will present 205 Europa matches per season under the new deal.
For its part, Fox Sports 1 will present a pair of live Europa League matches weekly, while Fox Sports 2 will televise two live matches and encores of the Fox Sports 1 matches. Fox Soccer Plus will also offer two live matches weekly, along with encores of the matches that debuted on the national cable services. All matches will air live on the Fox Sports GO mobile app.
The UEFA title has been won by 27 different clubs, a dozen of which have claimed multiple titles. Juventus, Inter Milan and Liverpool have been the most successful, garnering three titles apiece. England's Chelsea is the current champion after beating Portuguese side Benfica in the 2013 final. Their match last May is the most-watched UEFA Europa League contest in the U.S. on cable.