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Pros and cons of the World Cup TV schedule for Qatar 2022

Pros and cons of the World Cup TV schedule

Now that the World Cup Draw is complete, it’s time to analyze the pros and cons of the World Cup TV schedule. After all, a lot is known already. That is even before the TV schedule is officially confirmed by FOX Sports.

For instance, FIFA has finalized the kickoff times and schedule. Telemundo has already confirmed its TV schedule. Plus, we also know the countries participating. All that’s left is for FOX Sports to decide what channels to utilize for the games. Even then, those details are subject to change for a myriad of different reasons. That sometimes happens even after the tournament begins.

Suffice to say, everything is subject to change.

What we know so far

The 2022 World Cup takes place in Qatar, which is eight hours ahead of United States’ East Coast. As a result, the kickoff times for the majority of Group Stage games are 5AM, 8AM, 11AM and 2PM ET.

On television, live games in English-language are shown across FOX, FS1 and FS2. Spanish-language games are available across Telemundo and Universo. In fact, 56 games will air live on Telemundo. Only the eight concurrent Group Stage finale games will air on Universo. In total, the 64 games will be live in Spanish on television and streaming.

For cord cutters, Peacock Premium will be streaming every World Cup game in Spanish. FOX Sports has not yet announced their streaming plans.

Pros and cons of the World Cup TV schedule

Let’s start with the benefits of the 2022 World Cup TV schedule.

First, each of the three Group Stage games featuring the United States kick off at 2PM ET. The matches are on a Monday (versus either Ukraine, Scotland or Wales), Friday (against England) and a Tuesday (versus Iran). While weekend matches are preferable, the Friday game against England is on Black Friday. That’s traditionally a day when many workers have a day off. Overall, all three games should generate significant viewing numbers, especially for FOX Sports.

Second, the World Cup Draw has produced several tantalizing games, on paper at least. For instance, on November 27, Spain hosts Germany in a game between two powerhouses in world soccer. A day earlier, it’s Mexico against Argentina. If the 2006 game between the two countries is anything to go by, it should be a thriller. We have the aforementioned England against United States on Black Friday. Plus there’s Portugal versus Uruguay. That match could feature Cristiano Ronaldo going up against Luis Suarez.

Plus, you have a Thanksgiving Day 2022 treat of Portugal-Ghana, Brazil-Serbia, Uruguay-South Korea and Switzerland-Cameroon.

Strong start to the World Cup

Third, the way that the schedule has been set, it flows very well for broadcasters despite the morning start times. In a peculiarity of this year’s competition, host Qatar doesn’t play the first game of the tournament. That’s to the advantage of broadcasters because the more attractive fixture of Senegal-Netherlands starts the competition instead. Albeit, at five o’clock in the morning for viewers on the East Coast.

Having said that, the first day of action does include the United States in its debut game. England playing that day also should generate a lot of interest. Day two includes Mexico, current World Cup champions France and Argentina (starring Leo Messi). Day three includes intriguing matches for Germany, Belgium and Spain. And so on and so forth. By having the U.S. on opening day, and then big games continuing after that, it should hold most people’s attention from the start. That will certainly be the hope of FOX and Telemundo, who are looking at the soccer TV ratings very closely.

Fourth and finally, despite World Cup 2022 not having a “Group of Death,” the tournament is very balanced in every one of the eight groups. That will increase the likelihood that most games will go down to the final day of Group Stage matchups. Plus, the balanced groups should avoid any major blow-outs. The matches are finely balanced, ultimately making it more competitive.

FOX and Telemundo face several obstacles

First, the scheduling of the competition in November and December instead of the customary summer months is a major issue. It was such an issue that when FIFA made the decision, FOX Sports threatened to sue FIFA for changing it. For U.S. viewers, the months of November to December are synonymous with the NFL, World Series and other American sports leagues. Having a soccer tournament played in a very busy sports calendar for Americans is not ideal, by any means.

Still, FOX threatening to sue FIFA did result in the American broadcaster reaping a big benefit. Namely, FIFA let FOX Sports acquire the rights to the 2026 FIFA World Cup without competitors being allowed to bid. This was before a decision was reached to award the hosting of the 2026 competition to North America. By threatening FIFA, FOX has acquired the rights to arguably the most lucrative soccer tournament ever on US television.

World Cup will be a TV ratings challenge

For Qatar 2022, FOX Sports will find it very difficult to turn World Cup 2022 into a TV ratings juggernaut. As a result, it’s more important than ever for the United States to go deep in this competition.

FOX Sports will want to beat the 2018 World Cup TV ratings. Russia 2018 averaged 4.6 million viewers per game. Compared to the previous tournaments, the 2014 World Cup averaged approximately 8.1 million viewers combined on the ESPN and Univision networks.

Finally, the biggest challenge that FOX Sports faces is the World Cup Final. The game is on Sunday December 18, 2022, beginning at 10AM ET. That conflicts with FOX’s coverage of the NFL. However, there have been discussions that the NFL may adjust its schedule that day to accommodate the FIFA World Cup.

Competing with the NFL for attention

Overall, the 2022 FIFA World Cup will end up being a bridge too far for both FOX Sports and Telemundo. It’s tough enough that broadcasters face the herculean task of enticing viewers to tune in from 5AM to 4PM ET. If the competition was during the summer, that would be one thing. But having the competition clash with American football, at a key point in the NFL season, is an insurmountable task. The best FOX and Telemundo can hope for is winning new fans to get them ready for World Cup 2026. At least that competition will be in the summer in timezones that are favorable to American viewers.

Photo credit: SOPA Images / Contributor

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30 Comments

30 Comments

  1. Justo Hernandez

    May 16, 2022 at 3:01 am

    UPDATE!!!, UPDATE!!!
    Sunday December 4th is the 2nd. of Round of 16.
    USMNT could play that day if they qualify as first in their group (B1) at 2:00 pm ET.
    These are the NFL 1:00 pm ET games for that same day: Packers-Bears, Steelers-Falcons, Jets-Vikings, Jaguars-Lions, Titans-Eagles, Browns-Texans, Broncos-Ravens, Commanders-Giants.

  2. MarkB

    April 4, 2022 at 6:39 pm

    We already know the cons. It’s on fox

  3. Cpcva

    April 4, 2022 at 4:59 pm

    I have a hunch if Fox does stream it on Tubi people will bitch about it

  4. Zaza

    April 4, 2022 at 4:42 pm

    Sounds like they will be offering games in HDR (in 4k I presume) via the Fox Sports app for cable subscribers and also hopefully 4k HDR via services like YoutubeTV and Fubo.

    “For The World Cup Qatar in 2022, anticipated to be one of the largest events in live broadcasting history. Fox Sports will be running over 90 simultaneous camera feeds all shot in HDR, covering four matches per day across eight stadiums”

    https://www.sportspromedia.com/news/fox-sports-opendrives-broadcast-tech-world-cup-2022-super-bowl/

    • Buckles

      April 4, 2022 at 6:34 pm

      They already did every WC game in 2018 in 4K.

      • Zaza

        April 4, 2022 at 7:20 pm

        Yes but it was quite limited in terms of availability across devices due to the deal they had with Hisense, hopefully it’ll be more widely available this time.

  5. jason

    April 4, 2022 at 3:38 pm

    If the only streaming option for the World Cup is Peacock Premium in Spanish then I will go for that. Got to have the WC this year with USA and Canada in it.

    English speaking streaming service? Not holding my breathe on it. Of all the major TV networks in the USA. Fox seems to be the last to embrace the streaming internet platform. And unfortunately they got the World Cup rights.

  6. Ra

    April 4, 2022 at 12:36 pm

    I don’t understand the concern about how many viewers will the WC attract in the US. If I decide not to boycott the whole thing, I will be more than glad to have access to all the games. If Fox makes it hard, no problema – I will watch it in Spanish on Telemundo. Or maybe it will be available in Portuguese, French, and other languages in Sling World Sports as was the case last WC.
    But I have zero concerns about total viewership numbers, either in the US or worldwide. I am not financially invested in it. I can already stream whatever league I like. What will be the gain of drawing more viewers? Increasing the fees we pay? No, thanks. I am even happier with small viewership numbers.

  7. Michael

    April 4, 2022 at 11:56 am

    While I love Soccer, they will never go up against the NFL in the United States. That’s ok. I will watch as many World Cup matches as possible…and I will still watch my 49ers later in the day. During 2018 the average viewing per match was about 4 million per game, including 12 million for the final. Those are awesome numbers, and that was with the games being in Russia which is about 3-4 ours earlier than if the game was in UK or Western Europe, or only 1 hour different if the game were in South America. In my opinion that was great. Jut as a comparison, the average viewer for a regular season NFL game in 2021 was 17.1 million. The average viewers for the NFL Fox Sunday Pregame show is right at about 5 million. There is no change that the NFL will be moved to FS1, but with the NFL they Trade off with CBS on who has the The Double header week (1pm & 4pm), or the single game (1pm or 4pm). Don’t quote me on this, Chris probably know this much better than I do….but I would assume that the schedule it going to be set where on the Sunday of the Final Game Fox will be on the rotation for single game 4:00 pm EST game. In the past CBS & Fox have negotiated swapping weeks before. I am 100% sure that there will be no conflicts on the Final Championship Sunday….but I am not sure about the other three Sundays. If there are no shootouts, there shouldn’t be much conflict. The only conflict to me are going to be early games. With my work scheduled be up to watch those early games. That is where I will be relying on TalkSPort and BBC 5 on Tunein to listen to the games when I can…but if Fox sends their streaming and On demand to Fubo TV, “No es bueno.” I am not paying for cable just to watch something that is shown OTA. I still have my 1 year of Peacock, I will just watch the replays in Spanish.

    • David

      April 5, 2022 at 11:00 am

      The Final is scheduled for 10am ET. It’ll be over by the time the 1pm NFL games kick so at most they’ll push back those 30 minutes just in case the World Cup Final runs really long. No need to clear out the entire 1pm window

  8. JP

    April 4, 2022 at 8:43 am

    For everyone already complaining about FS1 or FS2 and hating Fox, etc…remember, the most matches will be free OTA on Telemundo no matter what and also able to stream them all on Peacock…for those up in arms Fox hasn’t announced their streaming plans yet.

    Just watch in Spanish, who cares! Don’t need to understand the announcers to know what’s going on.

    • Marco

      April 4, 2022 at 8:55 am

      Exactly! We cut the cable cord ten years ago now, which forced me to find alternatives (including some woefully uncooperative pirate streams). I also tune in to my Tottenham matches via talkSport or BBC5 radio. But when a match is on OTA Telemundo, I watch it in HD splendor just like the rest! Looking forward to doing the same with the World Cup, and hearing “GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL” every time one gets across the line!

    • MarkB

      April 4, 2022 at 6:43 pm

      JP. You hit the nail on the head. If you needed fox announcers to know what’s going on, you should probably be watching something else.

  9. Arsenal4904

    April 3, 2022 at 10:00 pm

    I wrote this to Fox upon discovering they may put games in FS2.

    According to worldsoccertalk, I heard you might put World Cup games on Fox Sports 2 (FS2) this fall.

    I really hope you don’t. I’ve heard more than enough complaints that FS2 is not available in enough homes. This includes me. I am not wealthy in the slightest bit and cannot afford all these TV channels. I can afford FS1 with the cable I have. I know a lot of soccer fans that can’t afford FS2, let alone have it in HD.

    If you do put games on FS2, I hope you will make FS2 much, much more widely available to people throughout the United States as there are a lot that cannot get it, or if they can get it, not in high-definition.

    I heard you might put games on FS2 when it’s the only World Cup game occurring. I’m assuming that there would be other programming on Fox and FS1.

    Fox always has cared about soccer. The World Cup is the world’s biggest sporting event; yes, it’s bigger than the Olympics. The last World Cup took place in Russia, the same time or around the same time zone as Qatar (where 2022 is being held).

    For the World Cup in Russia, none of the 64 matches were live on FS2. All were on either Fox or FS1. With similar kick-off times in Qatar, I heard there may be games on FS2 in lieu of other programming on FS1. I would be extremely upset to see a World Cup match that will catch a lot of attention in America be on a channel that few people have. Examples include Morocco vs Croatia, and Spain (among the best national teams, best national leagues and has Barcelona and Real Madrid, followed more than any other club worldwide).

    When the World Cup group stage matches occurred simultaneously in June 2018, everything was either on Fox or FS1. I don’t see a reason to put any game on FS2 and have something related to American football or another thing on FS1. I hope you will put more matches on Fox, because if you want higher TV ratings, it won’t happen by putting 5 to 8 matches on a channel barely anyone has in high-definition.

    Casual fans who watch the World Cup won’t be aware that it’s happening because they wouldn’t be able to find FS2 when that match is going on.

    Or if you do decide to put a match on FS2, try putting it on Fox News or Fox Business, or the sister channel to Fox where they do local news when Fox is showing something else. NBC does this to the Premier League by putting matches on CNBC, a news channel.

    I was very disappointed the way you handled the Bundesliga – even putting Dortmund-Bayern on Fox Soccer Plus; only soccer fans know what that channel is. Thankfully you put it on FX, but because you don’t own FX anymore, I hope you would put it on an alternative to FS2 (such as Fox News or Fox Business).

    If you decide to put games on FS2, expect a lot of anger from soccer fans throughout the United States as not many can afford having that channel in high definition.

    I understand there’s other sports in November and December, such as college basketball, but the World Cup is the biggest sporting event in the world and happens every four years. American sports in November and December are every year, and any World Cup game will outnumber those sports in viewership, even NFL, for many reasons, including how the popularity of soccer in the United States has increased.

    I really hope you do not decide to put any game on FS2, even though kick-off times are early, given everything I said. Every game last World Cup was not on FS2, which is a reason why TV ratings were decent despite no U.S. team.

    I don’t know why you would put a World Cup game on FS2 when at the same time of the day, Champions League draws were on FS1.

    Soccer fans will consider illegal streaming if a game does not receive attention.

    I hope you will promote the World Cup as you might never see a World Cup outside June or July ever again.

    Please consider everything I wrote here.

    • David

      April 5, 2022 at 11:05 am

      I don’t think they’ll need to use FS2. Like you said, none of the games in 2018 made it there, so that doesn’t seem likely here. Most of the games are in the morning, out of the way of other spots. There might be more games on FS1 than on Fox just because of a few football conflicts, but other than that (and the difficulty in promoting a World Cup during American football season), no reason to believe games will be buried on FS2

  10. dave

    April 3, 2022 at 6:02 pm

    Thank you for sharing a perspective on pros and cons. A few reactions:
    .
    * FOX made out like bandits! I doubt you could craft a better group and game days/times for USMNT ratings in November. And to get 2026 rights on the cheap – well played by FOX.
    .
    * “FOX Sports has not yet announced their streaming plans” – my guess is everything on FOX, FS1, FS2 will be on the FOX Sports app with authentication, same as college sports. Is your thinking that FOX may launch a standalone app with all games in English (like Peacock for Spanish)?
    .
    * I suspect timing may impact viewership by casual fans much more than by hardcore soccer fans. How many people who watch soccer once every four years will wake up for 5 am (worse as you go west) games, or skip work or family or school or church or etc. for 8 am and 11 am games? Very high soccer ratings depend on casual fans. Comparable US hurdle as in 2018.
    .
    * I see November vs. June as a bigger issue than others. June is a month where frivolity is socially acceptable in the US. School has ended, weather is pleasant, sunrise is early and sunset is late, many are on or looking forward to vacation, etc. Unproductive June may not stand out negatively. Thanksgiving week aside (often with unmovable family commitments), November and early December do not strike me as prime time for goofing off.

    • David

      April 5, 2022 at 11:09 am

      The issue isn’t about goofing off. People are into football in November and December, so they may not be able to get as into the World Cup as they would if the schedule was as normal. So they might not be able to capture those casual fans who are too invested in the NFL and college football to get up early every morning to watch the World Cup

  11. Arsenal4904

    April 3, 2022 at 5:39 pm

    World Cup games on FS2? I don’t think so.

  12. Buckles

    April 3, 2022 at 4:51 pm

    I don’t know why these writers continue to assume that people won’t watch soccer because it’s on during the NFL or MLB seasons. People are still going to watch the World Cup. Soccer fans don’t watch NFL over the World Cup let alone MLB or NBA. The ratings will be the same as if they had it in the summer. The only bad thing is the start times and that wouldn’t matter in the summer. 2018 WC ratings were down bc the games weren’t great and no USA or ITALY which bring in bigger numbers here.
    2014 WC in Brazil also had much more viewer friendly start times for USA.

    • David

      April 5, 2022 at 11:11 am

      The ratings absolutely will not be the same as the summer. Big viewership numbers depend on casual fans. Hardcore soccer fans will watch the games no matter when they’re on. Casual fans, not so much. They’ll be too busy with the NFL and college football or the NBA and NHL to get invested in the World Cup.

  13. Christopher Ernest WATSON

    April 3, 2022 at 3:08 pm

    I think that the writer is underestimating the interest in and support for soccer in the US and Canada. While I admit that it would be better in the summer, I believe that even in November, the WC will get good viewing figures.

  14. Mercator

    April 3, 2022 at 2:52 pm

    Fox is a joke but they really lucked out, our group couldn’t have been better designed to both attract interest and still give the US a possibility of moving out of the groups. I believe all the US matches will be a 2pm ET kickoff, and the England match will be on a de facto holiday. The timezone could be better but, 7hrs is not bad at all, any competition outside of the Americas will be in a similar or worse zone, and the games are early AM which many US fans are already accustomed to. The NFL will probably bow out from Sunday 1pm games (the week after is Xmas on a Sunday, so the NFL will have a lot to shuffle in December). Plus, the US is not Europe people work during the summer, so I actually think moving it more toward the US holiday season will be a benefit.

    “FOX Sports has not yet announced their streaming plans.” Absolute joke for the biggest event on earth. Get your VPN in order well before the matches – BBC and ITV will have all the games free in the UK easily accessible in HD with a VPN.

    • Christopher Ernest WATSON

      April 3, 2022 at 3:12 pm

      You seem to suggest that the whole of Europe takes an extended holiday during summer.Many in France and Italy take as much off during August as possible, but having spent many summers in Europe, which BTW is not a monolith, different countries have different habits, I can assure you that you are mistaken.

      • Mercator

        April 3, 2022 at 8:42 pm

        Sorry man a World Cup summer in most parts of Europe is just different. The weather is good, people are out on holiday, and everything stops for the games. It’s not the same in the summer in most of the US – you generally go to work and the fact that the World Cup is on is incidental to most people.

    • Buckles

      April 3, 2022 at 8:12 pm

      Why do people hate on fox so much? They put more games on straight linear than ESPN ever did. Their coverage is fine.

      • MarkB

        April 4, 2022 at 6:47 pm

        Buckles, people hate on fox so much because they suck. Their so called coverage is third rate at best.

        • Buckles

          April 6, 2022 at 5:02 pm

          How is it any worse than ESPN? None of us are watching the games bc of announcers. Fox at least puts the games on big FOX.

  15. David the Yank

    April 3, 2022 at 1:49 pm

    No, the final is 10 am EST, well before NFL games kick off, even if it requires extra time and penalties. There will be no delays in NFL kickoffs!

    • Christopher Harris

      April 3, 2022 at 2:04 pm

      If the World Cup Final went to extra time and penalties, it would be over by close to 1PM ET. But that won’t allow for any trophy celebrations or post-match coverage live on FOX. It also wouldn’t allow for any pre-game NFL coverage on FOX for a 1PM ET game either.

      • David the Yank

        April 3, 2022 at 8:35 pm

        I think fox loves the buildup of one event running in to another. Can love NFL on fox pregame to FS1 for a single Sunday. Very high likelihood WC ends at 1155am eastern with a full hour for trophies and some NFL pregame. Can always do an hour postgame on FS1. And if we do get pens, they will get a great xover audience into football. Fox always had the option to ask the NFL to move most or all of their 1 pm games to CBS that sunday. CBS has long done the same on us open final Sunday for the 4 pm window. Doesn’t work as well for 1 pm but fox can ask. My bet is fox will LOVE the possibility of the 1 pm bleed and quick hit movement of a massive audience from football to ummm football.

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