In the past few years, FOX Soccer has been accumulating an ever-growing number of TV rights deals to bring most of the best soccer leagues in the world to a US audience. FOX Sports winning the bids to broadcast the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup tournaments was a crowning achievement. But it’s quite possible that FOX may not be done quite yet.
This spring, the bidding for the TV and Internet rights to La Liga for 2012-13 and beyond will be finalized. GolTV currently owns the rights and sub-licenses some of the games to ESPN, but the hot property of Barcelona and Real Madrid games could entice both FOX Soccer and ESPN to get into a bidding war for the much-coveted rights. Then again, both parties may want GolTV to do the heavy-lifting and come in afterwards to scoop up a sub-licensing deal to show select games on its network.
Whether FOX Soccer gets the rights to La Liga or not, the network has built an impressive roster of soccer leagues and tournaments for viewers to watch across FOX Soccer, FOX Soccer Plus and FOX Soccer 2Go. They include the English Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup, League Cup, Championship, Serie A, Ligue 1, Scottish Premier League, FA Cup, CONCACAF Champions League, England national team, A-League and, beginning next season, Europa League.
When you think about it, there isn’t much that FOX doesn’t have that would be worth adding. Two exceptions are that ESPN has the US rights to Euro 2012 and Euro 2016. GolTV, meanwhile, has the rights to the Bundesliga, where — again — they sublicense some of the games to ESPN. Due to kick-off times, the Bundesliga would clash with Premier League games on FOX Soccer, so I don’t see a good fit there unless the network wanted to broadcast games on FOX Soccer 2Go. The European Championships would be a great coup — but it’s important that FOX doesn’t bite off more than it can chew, particularly with all of the planning that’s needed to get everything ready for World Cup 2018.
And don’t forget that the US TV and Internet rights for the Premier League for seasons 2013-16 will go up for bidding this year with FOX Soccer and ESPN surely very interested in the crown jewel of club soccer TV coverage.
While FOX has been busy gobbling up new TV rights deal including the acquisition this week of the Scottish Premier League, ESPN has been eerily quiet. While soccer continues to be an important asset for ESPN, it’s not clear yet how competitive the network wants to be in bidding for high-profile rights. The network certainly has the cash available, as does FOX — thanks to its parent company. But how much of a priority is soccer to ESPN when the network generates vast sums of revenue from other far more lucrative sports? FOX Soccer, meanwhile, can concentrate on soccer alone. And continuing to build an empire in the lead-up to 2018.
FOX already has a near monopoly on the best soccer coverage in the United States. What’s your opinion regarding this? Should FOX Soccer go in strong to try to win La Liga rights? If that happens, does GolTV go out of business by losing its flagship programming? Or is time for ESPN to get serious about bidding on soccer rights for US viewers? What would a near-monopoly by FOX look like in the United States (i.e. do you think that FOX Soccer may start to change the way that soccer is broadcast across its networks in the run-up to World Cup 2018)? Share your opinions in the comments section below.