One of the possibilities of FOX and ESPN’s expected acquisition of the joint TV rights to US Men’s National Team and MLS for 2015-2022 is that it could allow ESPN to offer show some UEFA Champions League matches on its network or online as part of its deal with FOX.
A source to World Soccer Talk revealed that FOX discussed the possibility of sub-licensing some UEFA Champions League games to ESPN. FOX owns the US media rights to the UEFA Champions League, Europa League and, beginning in 2015, the Bundesliga. The source said that as part of the discussions, ESPN discussed the possibility of picking up select games as part of its joint USMNT-MLS bid with FOX. The rights discussions are completely separate, and the discussions may result in no progress being made on the European soccer front, but it shines a light on the business relationship between FOX and ESPN — so cozy, in fact, that the two companies have been nicknamed FOSPN.
The close working relationship between FOX and ESPN, especially in the realm of soccer rights, is very interesting.
— FOX and ESPN made a joint bid to try to win the Premier League TV rights in 2012,
— FOX executives will be behind-the-scenes at ESPN’s World Cup coverage this summer in Brazil on a fact-finding mission to help prepare for the 2015 Women’s World Cup and 2018 World Cup,
— FOX acquired the US media rights to the 2016 UEFA European Championship qualifiers and 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers (involving European teams), and sub-licensed 50% of the games to ESPN.
— Lastly, ESPN signed a sub-license deal with FOX Sports last year to broadcast live UEFA Champions League games in Spanish on ESPN Deportes Radio.
In a competitive marketplace where rights fees for sports leagues and competitions continue to climb at astronomical rates, it makes sense for FOX and ESPN to team up together and strategize their efforts instead of trying to get into a bidding war against each other (and other media companies) where one of them ends up paying far more than what the rights deal is worth.
Together, ESPN and FOX are a formidable force with enormous resources. While both companies continue to work more closely together, it’ll be fascinating to see what their partnering means for soccer coverage in the future for soccer fans in the US.