ESPN and Univision have officially confirmed what World Soccer Talk revealed earlier today that neither TV network had been notified that the FIFA TV rights for 2023-2026 (including FIFA World Cup 2026) were being handed to FOX Sports and Telemundo instead of going through the typical closed bidding process.
Presumably, the TV rights for 2023-2026 were handed to FOX Sports and Telemundo as a makegood for the soon to be announced switching of World Cup 2022 from summer to fall or winter. Neither FOX, FIFA or Telemundo have denied the claim.
On Friday, a FIFA spokesperson said that the agreement with FOX Sports and Telemundo was “the result of a detailed assessment of the market and discussions with the relevant broadcasters.” However, ESPN and Univision confirmed today that they weren’t included in the process.
“We were not invited to be involved in this process,” read a statement from ESPN. “Considering the high quality presentation that ESPN demonstrated and the exposure we brought to FIFA events through all our platforms, it was surprising and disappointing to learn of this when the press release was issued.”
ESPN’s coverage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup broke numerous records, while their coverage was critically acclaimed.
Univision, meanwhile, broke several records for Spanish-language broadcasts.
“We were not invited to participate in the process and find it curious that FIFA would think keeping the #1 Hispanic media company in the U.S. out of a competitive bidding process is good for the growth of Soccer in the U.S.,” said a Univision spokeswoman.
When words such as ‘curious,’ ‘surprising’ and ‘disappointing’ are used in official announcements from broadcasters such as ESPN and Univision, you know that the broadcasters must have been as shocked as we were when the news was announced.
FIFA (and presumably FOX Sports) will hope that the story is quickly swept under the rug and that by the time 2026 rolls around that we will have long forgotten how FOX and Telemundo ended up getting the rights. But knowing soccer fans, many of whom have long memories, they won’t forget how ESPN and Univision got cheated out of bidding on the rights for 2026.
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