With the current TV and streaming rights deals for both The FA Cup and Serie A expiring at the end of this season in the United States, media broker IMG is having such a difficult time trying to sell the FA Cup rights that they’re now offering the FA Cup and Serie A rights together to try to land a deal, according to a World Soccer Talk source.
In April 2017, we reported that representatives from The FA had met with FOX Sports, NBC Sports and ESPN to present what the TV and streaming rights would include for the 2018/19 season onwards. However, at the time, World Soccer Talk learned 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 had 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 in the fall of 2016, but a spokesman had confirmed then that NBC Sports had no follow-up discussions with the organization regarding the FA Cup.
Fast forward to February 2018, and IMG is now hoping that the combination of the FA Cup rights with Serie A will be enough to finalize a deal. A huge stumbling block for IMG, according to World Soccer Talk sources, is the over-inflated value that they’re placing on the FA Cup competition. Since IMG paid a reported $1.2 billion for the international rights, they’re forcing a hard bargain to try to recoup a lot of that money.
At the same time, the FA Cup as a rights property has lost a lot of respect and value in the past decade. As a TV product, it hasn’t been able to keep up with the times. Plus many Premier League clubs and their supporters have less interest in the competition due to a variety of reasons including the timing of the FA Cup Third Round right after a very hectic run of games over the Christmas holidays.
In January 2018, World Soccer Talk reported that there was the good possibility that the FA Cup rights in the United States would be acquired by a streaming provider, potentially landing at Amazon, Facebook, ESPN Plus or another streaming service.
With both Turner Sports and ESPN launching new sports streaming services in the coming months, the FA Cup and Serie A could be ideal competitions to add to the services to encourage soccer fans to subscribe. And according to a World Soccer Talk source, ESPN is in talks with IMG to try to get the rights to the FA Cup and Serie A.
But the stumbling block for a lot of media companies in the United States remains being able to justify the exorbitant numbers IMG is expecting when sports networks are dealing with major issues such as declining subscriber numbers, illegal streaming and rocky advertising revenue.
Will the FA Cup and Serie A find its new home for the 2018/19 season on US television? It’s unlikely, but which streaming service is willing to pay the price for two competitions that have fallen during hard times?