FIFA’s pain could be Fox and NBCUniversal’s gain. As the FBI expands its criminal probe into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which were awarded controversially to Russia and Qatar, respectively, pressure is mounting on soccer’s governing body to reopen the bids. That would be good news for Fox Sports and NBCU-owned Telemundo, which hold U.S. broadcast rights for both tournaments. Fox agreed to pay more than $400 million for English-language rights, with Telemundo shelling out $600 million.
“There would be loud demands for some renegotiation [of those contracts]” if improprieties were found in FIFA’s handling of the bids, says Claudio Aspesi, analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein. In Europe, some are calling to renegotiate deals or even drop the 2018 and 2022 World Cups from TV if the bidding isn’t reopened in the wake of FIFA president Sepp Blatter stepping down.
Even if deal terms stay the same, Fox and Telemundo, both of which declined to comment, could score if the location of the 2022 World Cup moved (it might be too late to change the 2018 event).
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