Fox’s investment into the American broadcast rights for the next three World Cup tournaments seemed like a huge miss after the US Men’s team failed to qualify for 2018. So Fox had plenty of reason to celebrate the United States’ winning bid for the 2026 games.
Hosting the games in North America could be a huge boon for the network, which paid roughly a half a billion dollars for rights to the 2018, 2022 and 2026 games.
Scheduling matches during prime time is tricky when the games are held overseas.
“Anytime you host a big event like this in the US, it’s going to draw more interest,” said Fox Sports President Eric Shanks. “It’ll be fantastic for fans, for US soccer.”
Shanks also noted that Fox won’t have to deal with the logistics of showing games in time zones that differ from the United States.
He said Fox’s 2018 World Cup coverage will highlight that the US will soon play host.
“Clearly today’s news is going to be a big part of our content today, and I think the excitement will continue throughout the World Cup,”
It’s a sharp turn from the setback Fox was dealt when the US soccer team failed to qualify for this year’s World Cup in Russia.
“The very next morning, we took it as a challenge both creatively and on the business side and we had no choice but to go forward,” Shanks said.
The games attract a wider American audience when the United States is in the tournament because of patriotic appeal. For the first time since 1986, Americans don’t have a home team to follow. That means fewer casual viewers for Fox and a missed opportunity to promote an American team.
Fox has plenty of airtime to fill.
Fox Sports will be producing soccer shows and broadcasting games live. It will rely on a nearly 24-hour cycle of support to pull it off, according to Shanks.
Fox outbid longtime rights holder ESPN in 2011 for the rights to broadcast the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in English. Two years ago, Fox won a rights extension through the World Cup in 2026.
“Not only will this be the most broadly distributed World Cup through Fox and FS1 but also digitally,” he said. “We’ve set ourselves up to have a constant voice on social and we’re just starting to get the machine going today.”
On Wednesday, Fox Sports will be streaming a preview of its daily Twitter show, live from Russia. The World Cup kicks off Thursday with a match between Russia and Saudi Arabia.