It’s hard to imagine FOX Soccer being without its almost wall-to-wall coverage of the English Premier League. The network has built its success primarily on the coverage of the league, beginning with Fox Sports World in 1997, which morphed into Fox Soccer Channel in 2005 before becoming simply FOX Soccer last year.
With the launch of new soccer network beIN SPORT, FOX Soccer faces its most formidable competitor yet — a company with a seemingly endless amount of cash that is aggressively acquiring rights to many of the major soccer leagues.
In the past 9 months, FOX Soccer has lost US media rights for Serie A, Ligue Un, Football League Championship and League Cup to beIN SPORT. Plus, beIN SPORT has acquired US media rights to La Liga, Copa del Rey, Coppa Italia, Barca TV, Real Madrid TV and more. The new soccer network won’t be launching on television until August 15, but it’s already been making massive ripple waves within the soccer rights business.
Now this autumn, FOX Soccer faces the possibility of losing its crown jewel of soccer coverage — the US media rights to the English Premier League for seasons 2013-2016. The implications of what would happen if FOX Soccer would get outbid for those rights is immense, surely sending soccer fans and the media into a tailspin.
But what would FOX Soccer look like without Premier League TV coverage beginning with the 2013-14 season? The channel’s crown jewel would then become the UEFA Champions League, but that only is on every few weeks during the season. FOX Soccer also has the media rights to the Europa League, Scottish Premier League, FA Cup, England internationals and Community Shield. FOX does have the rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments, but as you can tell from the preceding list, FOX Soccer would have very little left if they lost the EPL.
FOX Soccer finds itself in an extremely difficult situation. Depending on how much beIN SPORT bids for the Premier League media rights, FOX may have to bid an obscene amount of money to keep the rights for another three seasons. With the process being a round of closed bidding, it’s a game of high stakes power involving bids that could climb into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
If FOX Soccer is outbid for these EPL rights in the US, the consequences could be enormous — even potentially signaling the end of FOX Soccer.
Earlier this year, Bloomberg revealed that FOX is considering launching a new US sports network where channels such as FOX Soccer, FUEL and SPEED could become FOX Sports 1, FOX Sports 2 and FOX Sports 3. Each of the new channels would feature an assortment of sports, and soccer could be shown on a sporadic basis.
But if FOX is able to win the rights to the EPL this autumn for 2013-2016, its coverage of the Premier League would form the perfect bridge to increase viewership and get soccer fans pumped up for FOX’s coverage of the 2015 Women’s World Cup and 2018 World Cup tournament.
While this autumn’s bidding process for the US rights to the Premier League could feature a no-holds barred struggle between FOX Soccer and beIN SPORT, there’s always the possibility of other players becoming integrally involved in the bidding — whether it’s launching independent bids, or — more likely — networks such as ESPN and/or Univision teaming up with FOX or beIN SPORT.
At the end of the day, the Premier League sits in the enviable position of sitting back and letting media giants battle it out to become the highest bidder for the Premier League rights. The outcome will probably be a record-breaking money maker for the Premier League, but the impact of who wins could change the soccer landscape forever in the USA.