Fox Sports and Telemundo World Cup plans – The Hollywood Reporter

The World Cup kicks off in Qatar on November 20, and while the event itself is surrounded by geopolitical controversy and intrigue, its television partners in the US are betting that a confluence of events (Lionel Messi’s last World Cup, the US national team’s goal a propitious Draw) have not only been able to improve their profits, but also boosted the soccer fanbase in the USA, with North America set to host the event in 2026.

Fox Sports has the English language rights, with games being broadcast on Fox and Fox Sports 1, while Telemundo Deportes has the Spanish language rights, with games being broadcast on Telemundo, Universo and Peacock.

An unusual timing for the event — the tournament is usually held in the summer, but Qatar’s climate necessitated a postponement to November — could hinder or assist any network when it comes to handling NFL rights (Fox has a Sunday afternoon game and Telemundo has Sunday Night Football), but also try to use the crowded schedule to draw attention to the event.

For Fox, that means all eyes are on Black Friday, November 25, in what turns out to be the biggest game of the first round (for English-speaking viewers, at least) when the US take on England.

“We’re treating it like a national holiday, we’re treating it like Super Bowl Sunday,” said David Neal, Fox Sports executive producer The Hollywood Reporter at a World Cup preview event in New York.

That means heavy promotions during Fox’s Thanksgiving NFL game as well as on Fox News. There’s even a Fox football balloon said to fly during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

“We’re really going to work towards this game and then we really hope that USA can go through in the tournament,” Neal added.

Fox football analysts, like Alexi Lalas, are upbeat about the game (Lalas predicted it will deliver a “monster number” in the ratings), but also about the US’s chances of getting out of the first round.

“The US is being put in the position of the underdog [which is where they are comfortable]’ Lalas said.

Having the USA in the tournament “is a great luxury,” says Neal, especially compared to the 2018 tournament in Russia, where the USA sat on the sidelines. However, Fox was able to learn from this experience and attempt to create compelling stories about other teams.

“We’re going to try to make a lot of storytelling gold out of these other matchups,” says Neal.

“Four years ago we learned many lessons about how to host an event without the US. I think it’s one of our most beautiful moments,” he added.

Chief among them this year is Messi, the Argentine legend who will be making his final appearance at the tournament this year. “It’s the biggest story for us, frankly, as much as almost anything,” says Ray Warren, President of Telemundo Deportes.

And as Fox settles into the big Black Friday game between the US and England, Telemundo is pushing to rebrand Thanksgiving for its own purposes.

“Our fan base is just so much broader ethnically and we have to cater to all of them, including the US,” says Warren. “USA-England will be a big event for us too, just from a pure football event, but on Thanksgiving Day, which is something like ‘Dia de Futbol’, we have four World Cup games and Thanksgiving night [NFL] Soccer.”

And both companies have a few tricks up their sleeves.

Fox is betting that this futuristic set on Doha’s Corniche will attract fans with a full LED pitch, ultra-high definition screens and other technological innovations.

“It will be visible from Mars,” Neal jokes, calling it “the most advanced piece of technology you’ve ever seen on TV.”

And Telemundo, meanwhile, is betting on Peacock, which will be the easiest place to live stream World Cup matches in the US (only in Spanish, of course… Fox will be streaming full match replays on Tubi).

And Telemundo is betting its audience will tune in with big numbers.

“A lot of people watch the NFL every week, not so much the Spanish language version,” says Warren. “So you know, we’re pretty confident that there’s going to be a crowd of Spanish-speaking viewers watching the World Cup. during those [NFL] time sections.”

Regardless of what happens on the field, the World Cup is going to be big business for both networks, with Guggenheim analyst Michael Morris predicting $125 million in advertising revenue on Fox alone (Fox and Telemundo combined brought in about $225 million in 2018 ).

But if the US gets past the first round or there’s a final involving Messi and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo… beware.


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