Scott Cooper Miami World Cup
Ost from the rancor of the United States men’s national team’s soft-shoe-shuffle exit from qualifying for the 2018 World Cup and raging, raging at Panamanian joy?
Countless fans yes, but also Fox Entertainment Group, owner of President Donald Trump’s television news network of choice.
It was Fox, recall that paid more than $400 million for the television rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, with the anticipation that the USMNT are there. Fox won a bidding war with ESPN for those two competitions. “The World Cup is still the greatest sporting event in the world,” Fox Sports President Eric Shanks told Sports Illustrated at the start of October, “but definitely for us it’s a different tournament if the U.S. is not in it.”
Ouch. The U.S. ended up missing out on its first World Cup since Mexico 1986 on Wednesday night, defeat to Trinidad and Tobago in Couva combined with a target that almost certainly never was for Panama against Costa Rica sending Bruce Arena’s team tumbling into a snake pit of bad headlines and morbid self-reflection.
As for Fox? In a coruscating review, Bloomberg points out that the system has scheduled 350 hours of programming for the tournament in Russia next summer. That would have been a solid investment based on the 2014 edition, when the USMNT made it from the group stages before losing to Belgium in the Round of 16.
“Just how far the group [USMNT] improvements will be key,” Forbes wrote in a 2014 piece assessing the ratings for the 2014 tournament, and looking ahead to the 2018 edition. That bit contained the note that ESPN, and parent company Disney, benefited from being aligned with Brazilian time zones. That won’t be the case in Russia.
Can Fox conserve its investment? There’s no doubt that the World Cup, the most prominent global sporting event, will nevertheless attract interest in america despite the USMNT. The 2014 final between Germany and Argentina was the third most-watched soccer game in the United States of time, with 17.324 million viewers.
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How many of those, however, were left or energized into watching by the USMST’s success may be a problem for Fox. There’s one solution, possibly, to paper over the cracks. Far ahead of the U.S. in CONCACAF qualifying, Mexico finished top of the group and qualified without difficulty. Fox could take advantage of the vast Mexican diaspora in the U.S. and focus its programming on El Tri. Of course, that would mean possibly angering Trump, who has been winding up Mexico since the beginning of his presidential run and might eventually be finished by the summer of 2018 with his brawl with the NFL. Fox may just need to turn south of the border to salvage its World Cup.