Fox Sports Media Group has netted a multimedia rights deal with UEFA for qualifying matches for Euro 2016 and the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and will pass half of the inventory to ESPN.
FSMG secured the rights to the qualifiers for both the UEFA Euro event and the European nations’ qualifying ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, which it has the U.S. rights to, and has agreed to sublicense half the inventory to ESPN, which will televise the Continent’s national team soccer tourney from France in June-July of 2016.
Under the expansive deal, financial terms of which were not disclosed, Fox Sports and ESPN each have rights to over 270 matches total for both cycles. Each package includes 129 Euro 2016 qualifiers from September 2014 through November 2015 and a like number of 2018 World Cup qualifiers from September 2016 through November 2017. Fifteen international friendlies also will air over the term of the deal from 2014-18.
The move by UEFA is akin to NASCAR bundling all of its rights back in 2001, which the stock car circuit wound up selling to Fox and NBC. The soccer rights, which UEFA in the past sold to various programmers in this nation, are exclusive in the United States, and non-exclusive in the Caribbean.
Fox's sublicensing soccer gambit could be a prelude to a deal that could result in the programmer moving some of its recently acquired Big East basketball rights to the worldwide leader, according to sources.
Both sports programmers plan to exhibit the UEFA matches on an array of platforms. Fox will fuel national sports network Fox Sports 1, which kicks off on Aug. 17, premium channel Fox Soccer Plus, dedicated broadband platform Fox Soccer 2Go and authenticated service Fox Sports Go.
For its part, ESPN, which will conclude its World Cup run with the FIFA event from Brazil next year, will put the UEFA action in play on ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, WatchESPN and broadband service ESPN3. ESPN has also obtained highlights rights for studio programs, including SportsCenter, ESPN’s new daily soccer program ESPN FC and the company’s global soccer digital hub ESPN FC.
During the Euro 2016 qualification cycle, ESPN has first selection from each week’s pool of games leading into its tournament coverage, while Fox Sports will have the initial pick from each week’s game pool leading up to its coverage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
“The journey for a country to be represented in two of the most prestigious soccer tournaments in the world is some of the most exciting soccer played each year,” David Nathanson, executive vice president, Fox Soccer, said in announcing the deal. “There are no two media properties better fit to showcase these matches than ESPN and Fox Sports whom already have the broadcast rights to the UEFA Euro 2016 and the 2018 FIFA World Cup, respectively. The UEFA European qualifiers add a new dimension of depth to our robust portfolio of soccer broadcast rights.”
Noted ESPN senior vice president of programming Scott Guglielmino.“UEFA has gone to great lengths to organize these critical and competitive matches. We are delighted to work with UEFA and Fox to bring fans in the United States all the qualifying matches in Europe for UEFA Euro 2016 and the 2018 FIFA World Cup.”