In the United States, the future of the FA Cup on television and streaming is up in the air with a lot of concerns about where the world’s oldest soccer competition will land after FOX Sports’ rights deal ends in May 2018.
Representatives from The FA met with the leading US sports networks in the fall to present what the TV and streaming rights would include for the 2018/19 season onwards.
Around the same time, The FA were raving in the UK press about a $1.2 billion deal they had secured with IMG whereby IMG had acquired the rights to the FA Cup for all of the countries around the world except in western Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. IMG would then, in turn, sell the FA Cup rights individually to each of the countries around the globe.
FA Chief Executive Martin Glenn described the TV rights deal as “hugely significant,” and “It is not overstating it to say that it could have a transformational impact on what we are able to achieve across the country. It also underlines the global popularity of The Emirates FA Cup, with its history and tradition it has the remarkable ability to create fantastic stories and inspire fans, players and clubs to believe anything is possible.”
Everything was sailing smoothly until The Daily Mail reported this month that the final contracts had never been signed by IMG.
Following up on the revelation, a source revealed to World Soccer Talk that there had been very little interest among leading sports networks in the United States to the FA Cup rights. FOX Sports, who we contacted for comment but failed to respond to our request, allegedly have no interest in renewing the rights. ESPN also allegedly passed on the opportunity to acquire the FA Cup rights. Meanwhile, sources did confirm that NBC had preliminary discussions with The FA last fall, but a spokesman said NBC Sports had no recent discussions with the organization regarding the FA Cup.
There are several reasons why the leading sports networks in the United States have little interest in acquiring the rights to the FA Cup. First, the way that the process has been handled, according to insiders, has been unprofessional. Second, there’s a declining interest in the FA Cup in general. That can be best illustrated by how Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final between Manchester City and Arsenal on FS1 had fewer viewers than the Premier League match between Liverpool and Crystal Palace, which overlapped with the semi-final broadcast, on NBCSN. And third, The FA is overvaluing the competition and is expecting rights fees that are over-inflated for the competition.
The double blow of The FA failing to get IMG to sign the contract coupled with cost-cutting measures by many US sports broadcasters comes at a difficult time for the FA Cup.
It opens up an opportunity for a Turner Sports or an over-the-top streaming provider such as Amazon or YouTube to acquire the rights in order to ensure that the FA Cup continues to be available to viewers in the United States.
The discussions will continue, and a resolution will likely happen in the coming months.