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FOX Sports suffers $200 million World Cup loss

The worst nightmare has come true for FOX Sports’ coverage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The United States has failed to qualify for the tournament for the first time in 32 years.

Earlier this year, FOX Sports President Eric Shanks joked that if the US Men’s National Team didn’t qualify for the 2018 World Cup “that would [be] like $200 million flushed down the toilet [for FOX Sports].”

While it was a joke at the time, it’s no laughing matter after the United States crashed out of World Cup qualification on Tuesday night with a woeful defeat against Trinidad and Tobago in front of a half empty stadium. In the United States’ place, Panama qualified for the World Cup while Honduras leapfrogged the US into a playoff qualification spot.

The USA’s failure is a killer blow to FOX Sports’ hopes of generating massive TV viewing numbers for the tournament. At the same time, it makes FOX Sports’ job that much harder to try to hit any promises the sports network has made to sponsors. FOX has already inked deals with several major advertisers, but it’s going to be tougher than ever for them to fulfill the commercial inventory if far fewer people will be watching.

SEE MORE: FOX Sports to air more than 32 World Cup games next summer on FOX network

FOX Sports recently announced that it’ll be sending a record number of production staff (450) to broadcast the World Cup directly from Russia, as well as building an elaborate two-storey set in Red Square, Moscow. The costs that FOX Sports budgeted for the tournament were no doubt made when they assumed that the United States would qualify for the competition.

In 2011, FOX Sports paid roughly $500 million for the rights to World Cup 2018 and 2022. Without the United States participating, the value of those 2018 rights has suddenly plummeted. And the prospect of a 2022 World Cup played in the desert in Qatar during the winter doesn’t hold much promise for FOX Sports either.

Once the dust has settled, expect FOX Sports to start their PR spin to try to position the US failure as a disappointment but not a cataclysmic result. As we’ve already seen since last year, FOX Sports has hitched their wagon to the Mexico national team to try to help their TV ratings, positioning El Tri as “America’s second team.” For fans of the US Men’s National Team, Mexico is one of the last countries on the globe that US fans would want to support.

After Tuesday night’s disastrous result for the United States, the real winner in the early stages of the World Cup TV ratings battle is Telemundo Deportes, the new Spanish-language rights holder to the World Cup. If anyone will see a big gain in viewing numbers next summer, it’ll be Telemundo with the inclusion of Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama and possibly Honduras — all Spanish-speaking countries with passionate fans, many of whom live in the United States.

SEE MORE: Schedule of World Cup games on US TV and streaming

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  1. The Truth

    October 11, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    FOX spent two years getting the US centric hype train out of the station. If there is anything to gain from last night, all the clowns at FOX have finally gotten what they deserved. Put all your eggs in one basket and disrespect the dedicated fan and this is what you get. I don’t want to see analysts put on TV to wear crazy hats. I want them to be put on TV to analyze the game.

    • BBCFan

      October 11, 2017 at 3:33 pm

      Well said.

  2. Paul

    October 11, 2017 at 1:18 pm

    And on top of everything Fox will mess around with last minute channel scheduling during WC2018 just to further annoy viewers. Fox might be banking on Northern Ireland and/or Rep of Ireland reaching Russia to bring in the Irish supporters from round the US.

  3. Ian

    October 11, 2017 at 12:44 pm

    “Mexico is one of the last countries on the globe that US fans would want to support.” That is very well written and very true. Fox is essentially the USMNT of soccer coverage. Perhaps this time they will make England America’s third team — you know, because they speak English over there or something.

    I am elated that the USMNT will not be in Russia. Raze Soccer House in Chicago, get Eric in as president, introduce pro-rel, blowup college soccer, and incentivize all USMNT players go to Europe.

  4. BBCFan

    October 11, 2017 at 12:08 pm

    I wonder does this mean that Fox will rethink how they will broadcast games. Will they do what ESPN did and use more British expertise and voices? I certainly hope so.

    • Lovac

      October 11, 2017 at 2:52 pm

      Isn’t that more expensive than using their current, cheap American lineup, considering they might be looking to slash costs everywhere? If anything, it probably means more Wynalda, Barton & co.

      • Jack S.

        October 13, 2017 at 12:01 pm

        Tim Howard is now available!

  5. Marc

    October 11, 2017 at 10:27 am

    The US doesn’t payback anyone….They don’t have the stones!!
    Alexi Lalas was 100% right

  6. Ronnie

    October 11, 2017 at 3:27 am

    Mexico ain’t no SECOND TEAM here in the USA after they failed to return the MASSIVE favor that the USA gave them four years ago. From now on, I will despise that POS team and I hope that they crash and burn in the first round at next year’s World Cup. And the next time the USA plays them in a meaningful match, we better CRUSH them as a form of payback.

    • David

      October 11, 2017 at 10:54 am

      That’s silly. The USMNT has no one to blame but themselves. They controlled their own destiny and only need ONE freaking point and they couldn’t accomplish that. They don’t deserve to be in the World Cup. One point and the other results in CONCACAF would have been meaningless.

  7. LIguy

    October 11, 2017 at 12:38 am

    very few to no El tri fans are tuning into Fox for coverage when Telemundo coverage is much better. Having Fiore be a clown won’t change that, the announcers they use for Mexico games are also horrible where as Andres Cantor will be calling the games on Telemundo.

  8. Wrong Said Fred

    October 11, 2017 at 12:22 am

    They got their bid-free 2026 USA World Cup as “hush money” for not making a big stink about the winter slave labor World Cup in 2022. I am playing the world’s smallest violin for Fox tonight.

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