UPDATE: 12:45 PM: The Sports Business Daily is reporting that Fox will pay $450 million-$500 million for rights to the next two World Cups, and Telemundo will pay $600 million. If true, those are massive markups from the last U.S. rights deal in 2005, when ESPN paid $100 million and Univision $325 million.
PREVIOUS, 9:40 AM: Fox Sports has won the English-language rights to broadcast the 2018 and 2022 soccer World Cups in Russia and Qatar, respectively, and Telemundo has won Spanish-language rights, after bidding was held this week in Zurich. No financial details were disclosed, but an official announcement is expected sometime today or early next week, according to Sports Business Journal; the deal includes rights to the Women’s World Cup in 2015 and 2019. It means current rights-holders ESPN and Univision — whose deal for the past two World Cups cost them a combined $425 million — lost out in the auction at FIFA headquarters, a surprising outcome that didn’t seem to be on anybody’s radar. ESPN, whose current deal includes the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, said this morning in a statement: “We made a disciplined bid that would have been both valuable to FIFA and profitable for our company, while continuing to grow our unprecedented coverage of the World Cup and Women’s World Cup events. We were aggressive while remaining prudent from a business perspective.” That language sounds pretty familiar: Fox rolled out similar words when it lost the recent Olympics TV-rights bidding to NBC. Both Fox and ESPN have been prominent networks offering soccer coverage in the U.S., where the sport’s popularity is solid but nowhere near as big as it is in Europe; both share rights to the States’ Major League Soccer games, and both show Fox has its Fox Soccer Channel cable network, which certainly will figure prominently in its World Cup plans.