Now, with the cat out of the bag, strategy becomes the tallest of orders. FOX Sports has won the World Cup broadcasts for 2018 and 2022 and now must figure out how to engage sports fans to ensure they tune in. They may have to do it without the support of MLS and U.S. Soccer.
Fox Sports does have the rights to the English Premier League, though, and this may be the key.
Their answer may be to try and make EPL more popular than MLS with sports fans. For a good majority of Soccer fans, the EPL already is more popular than MLS.
Also, pretty much any sports fan would agree that the top tier of EPL teams are more skilled and flat-out better than all MLS teams. But, it could be a tough sell to sports fans to push the EPL brand over the MLS brand as the main Soccer product for viewing pleasure.
Moving the star times for the matches to align them as lead-ins to an NFL game would be one alternative. This would mean Sunday EPL noon gametimes would be moved up in England in order to be shown live in the U.S. This would be done according to which NFL game, the early one or late one, is being shown nationally in the U.S.
Whether FOX Sports still owns broadcasting rights to the NFL or not is not the point. Any time slot changes that will make the EPL games more popular with fans in the U.S. may ultimately be FOX’s best strategy to get sports fans more used to world-renown players and skilled Soccer. FOX may also have to push its European Champions League and may try to influence these games as well, in order to have more sports fans tuning in to Soccer.
FOX Sports spent so much money on these WC events that programming coordinators will have loose reins to do whatever is necessary to ensure a winning formula and profits are made. It won’t necessarily be easy because of the distances Russia and Qatar are from the U.S. Many matches will take place live as most of the country is either going into REM or already heavy into it.
This buy-in for these World Cups was risky, to say the least. One major saving grace would be, if the U.S., as the second-place finisher for the 2022 WC behind Qatar, was made the official host due to the ongoing controversy surrounding FIFA payoffs and the strong possibilities that serious funny business took place on behalf of Qatar’s bid. If this happens and the U.S. is awarded hosting responsibility, than FOX backs into a no-brainer winner and all is resolved.
A World Cup here in the U.S. will garner huge television numbers and with a hot national team, who knows, possibly the greatest single event number in U.S. television history (All of these assumptions are that the WC won’t be on the internet, unless it’s FOX Sports’ website).