FOX sublicenses UEFA Champions League matches to ESPN (Deportes)
FOX and ESPN have seem to come full circle on rights sharing as ESPN’s streaming
service, WatchESPN, is now listing UEFA Champions League “placeholders” for the
upcoming Playoff Round as well as Matchday #1 and #2 come September 2014. For
now, the rights seem to be limited to Spanish-language coverage as no listings
are showing up for ESPN’s English-language services (ESPN/ESPN2).
This sublicensing comes on the heels of the two broadcasters sharing Euro and
World Cup qualifying matches over the next 2 cycles; and more recently the
sharing of newly signed 8-year TV deal with MLS and US Soccer. ESPN Deportes
has been sublicensing the Spanish-language rights to the Europa League since
the start of the 2012-13 season.
It is unclear at the moment what this deal means for FOX’s own Spanish-
language channel, Fox Deportes, which had very extensive coverage of the UEFA
Champions League since the onset of FOX’s rights. It’s hard to believe that the
Champions League will take the same route as the Europa League which gives
exclusive Spanish-language rights to ESPN. Rather, we should see alternate
coverage on the two Spanish-language broadcasters. The deal may, however,
take a match away from DirecTV’s coverage of the Champions League on its
special UEFA Channels 480-488.
The partnership between FOX and ESPN on soccer properties makes perfect
sense as the cost of broadcasting rights has seen a marked increase cycle
over cycle. FOX lost the rights to the very sought-after English Premier
League last season to NBC who paid $250 million for a 3-year deal that
begin with the 2013-14 season. FOX paid ‘only’ $80 million for the previous
3-year cycle. Speculation now is that a FOX/ESPN partnership will be very
interested in getting those rights during the next cycle.
FOX has owned the rights to the UEFA Champions League since the 2009-10
season and have recently renewed the deal which sees it keeping the
competition through the 2017-18 season. FOX is due to begin broadcasting
of the German Bundesliga come the 2015-16 season. There is also plenty of
speculation that the Dutch Eredivisie will be coming to FOX as well since
FOX’s parent company, FOX International, has purchased a 51 per cent stake
in Eredivisie Marketing and Media – the broadcasting arm of the partnership
between broadcaster and clubs in the Dutch top division. GOL-TV were the
Eredivisie rightsholders last season and have had a sublicensing deal with
ESPN Deportes themselves.