As recently as January it was estimated that the market for sports rights on television was valued at $26 billion, with networks continually paying larger and larger sums for the right to cover and show live sporting events. With such a huge and profitable market, it would come as no surprise to see sports networks compete.
So that makes it all the more shocking to see two of those major networks, ESPN and Fox Sports 1, beginning a trend of collaboration on soccer coverage.
In an effort to legitimize its recently created network, Fox Sports 1 outbid ESPN for the broadcasting rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup, ending ESPN’s streak of six consecutive World Cups broadcasted.
Instead of animosity, ESPN responded with goodwill. ESPN opted to pull the proverbial curtains back at the World Cup in Brazil, letting Fox executives behind the scenes a chance to learn from ESPN various techniques for covering the event.
Following that, Fox struck a deal with ESPN allowing it to broadcast some Champion’s League games. Fox owns the rights to the popular tournament through the 2017-2018 season, but are allowing ESPN to air selected games on ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN.
From a network basis these moves aren’t entirely altruistic. Fox Sports 1 will gain much needed digital distribution for its soccer matches. Two of the most rabid soccer fan bases in the United States are Hispanics and young adults.
The Hispanic market will now become more accessible with the use of ESPN Deportes while younger individuals increasingly opt to watch games and follow events on their cellphones and computers, which they will be able to do now with the Watch ESPN app.
Both of these moves ultimately are benefiting soccer fans in the U.S., so it is nice to see the networks working together.