In a statement released on Friday, ESPN called FIFA's decision to extend Fox's U.S. World Cup broadcast rights through the 2026 World Cup "surprising and disappointing."
On Thursday, FIFA unexpectedly announced it had extended American broadcast rights with Fox (English) and Telemundo (Spanish) through the 2026 World Cup. While ESPN has broadcast the World Cup since 2006, Fox won English TV rights to broadcast the tournaments in 2018 and 2022.
SI.com's Richard Deitsch reported Thursday that ESPN was unaware of any negotiations for future media rights in the United States.
On Friday, ESPN said it was disappointed that it wasn't given the opportunity to bid for television rights.
“We were not invited to be involved in this process. Considering the high quality presentation that ESPN demonstrated and the exposure we brought to FIFA events through all our platforms, it was surprising and disappointing to learn of this when the press release was issued.”
Univision, a rival to Telemundo, also issued a statement on Friday criticizing FIFA's decision.
“We were not invited to participate in the process and find it curious that FIFA would think keeping the #1 Hispanic media company in the U.S. out of a competitive bidding process is good for the growth of Soccer in the U.S.”
Fox reportedly paid between $400 million and $500 million in 2011 to acquire TV rights for 2018 and 2022, while Telemundo reportedly paid $600 million.
- Stanley Kay