FIFA says it is awarding Fox, Telemundo another World Cup

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Posted: Feb 12, 2015 5:11 PM
FIFA says it is awarding Fox, Telemundo another World Cup

NEW YORK (AP) — FIFA is sticking with its American TV partners through another World Cup.

In a surprise announcement Thursday, the sport's world governing body extended the U.S. and Canadian deals for its tournaments through 2026.

Fox added U.S. English-language coverage of the 2026 World Cup to its existing agreement for the 2018 and '22 events.

Terms of the contracts were not disclosed. In 2011, Fox won the English-language rights for about $425 million for two cycles, outbidding ESPN.

"These events are some of the world's most important sports competitions, and it is our privilege to be entrusted with these rights in the United States," Fox said in a statement.

The extensions come amid the uncertainty of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. FIFA plans to move the tournament out of the traditional June-July slot to avoid the brutal Qatari heat, and a working group plans to recommend new dates at a Feb. 23 meeting in Doha. A different schedule would conflict with a busier time of year for sports in the U.S.

"You go into buying a World Cup and you believe it's going to be in the same time frame it's always been," Fox Sports President Eric Shanks said last year. "Clearly in America there's much more competition for ratings points."

Fox declined further comment Thursday.

The deals were also extended for Telemundo's U.S. Spanish-language coverage and CTV/TSN in Canada. The agreements include the 2023 Women's World Cup.

A person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press that ESPN was not made aware FIFA was looking to make a decision on awarding rights through 2026. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because negotiations are not made public.

Asked how the process was handled, Niclas Ericson, FIFA's director of TV, said: "FIFA is constantly reviewing the market for its media rights and has ongoing discussions with media companies around the world."

NBC also could have pursued English-language rights, though the company retained Spanish-language rights with Telemundo.

"We were offered the opportunity to extend our Spanish-language rights for another cycle ... and we were happy to be able to complete the transaction," NBC Sports said in a statement.

The location of the 2026 World Cup has yet to be decided. But the tournament would be particularly attractive to the U.S. and Canadian broadcasters if it were held in the Americas because of the favorable time zones. The dream scenario for those networks is a World Cup in the United States. For now, though, FIFA hasn't even announced when it will pick the host country.

No matter the locale, the World Cup has become big business in the U.S. Last summer's final in Brazil was watched by 26.5 million people in the country on ESPN's ABC broadcast and Univision, up 7 percent from four years earlier.

The extension "underlines the continuously growing interest into football in these major territories as we impressively witnessed" in 2014, Ericson said.

This sort of deal is not unprecedented. Last year, the International Olympic Committee awarded six additional games to NBC through 2032 after secret negotiations and no open bidding.

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AP Sports Writer Rob Harris in London contributed to this report.