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Fox set to grab UEFA European Championships


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Best wishes to Dick Vitale, who announced today that “for the second time in just a few months, I’ve been diagnosed with a form of cancer.”

Fox Sports is close to taking the UEFA European Championship rights from ESPN, according to several sources. Nothing has been signed officially yet, but sources expect a deal for U.S. rights to be announced within the next two weeks. ESPN has held these rights since 2008 and has built up the Euros into a jewel event. Deal terms still are being negotiated, but sources say that Fox will have the rights through 2028, which would include Euro 2024 and Euro 2028, in addition to the UEFA Nations League and European qualifiers.

The price Fox is paying for the package is not known. ESPN paid around $115 million for the package that included just Euro 2020. UEFA was believed to be looking for around $300 million to cover the next two iterations of the event.

The deal marks a big win for Fox, as the Euros fit the media company’s soccer strategy, which is more focused on big events with national teams rather than individual clubs. Fox boasts an enviable schedule over the next four years, which includes the FIFA World Cup next year, the Women’s World Cup in 2023, the Euro 2024 and the Concacaf Gold Cup in 2025. It also holds the rights to the South America’s Copa America.

CBS, ESPN and NBC were involved in the negotiations at one point or another. These media companies have been active in picking up soccer rights, part of a strategy by each to bolster the direct-to-consumer component for their respective streaming services: Paramount+, ESPN+ and Peacock.

CBS, ESPN and Fox are expected to join NBC in submitting formal bids for the Premier League’s U.S. media rights next month, according to several sources. NBC’s current deal ends in May. The league has told interested companies to submit bids by Nov. 8. The Premier League has said that it will consider bids that split the rights between two media companies, a big change from how it has previously marketed its U.S. rights, which to date has only been held by one network.

Opportunities still exist for one company to pick up the rights. But other properties, like the NHL recently, have opted to split packages among two or more networks to take advantage of having big media companies help promote their sport.

Given the posturing among all the networks, it’s impossible to accurately predict how much the league stands to make from a new deal. NBC currently pays more than $150 million per season as part of a six-year deal signed in 2015. Considering the amount of interest, that fee is likely to double — and possibly go higher. NBC Sports wants to remain the sole U.S. rights holder for Premier League, which has been a big driver of its Peacock streaming service.

When asked about the Premier League at last week’s CAA World Congress of Sports, ESPN’s Jimmy Pitaro said, “We love the game of soccer. We love it on linear, but probably love it even more for direct-to-consumer. Absolutely we are interested in more soccer content and we are looking at it right now.”

The frenzy around the Premier League has affected MLS, which also is in the market looking for new media deals. Sources said that media companies told MLS execs that they wanted to wait until after the Premier League’s bidding process ended before getting serious with negotiations around the domestic league’s rights.

Sinclair and Dish Network quietly agreed to a short, one-week extension last week that runs through Oct. 21. The two sides previously had agreed to two one-month-long extensions as they near a deal to have the satellite distributor carry Sinclair local broadcast and RSN channels. Sinclair and Dish could agree to more extensions, but those likely would be a week in length, as well.

Complicating matters is the ransomware attack that has crippled Sinclair’s systems since Saturday. Insiders told me that employees still were not accessing the system — including emails — this afternoon. The ransomware attack caused a speed bump in negotiations, which already have been wildly different than usual because of COVID.

Last week, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver described the cable bundle as broken at the CAA World Congress of Sports. Today, during a start-of-the-season press call, Silver answered a question about Altitude’s distribution problems in Denver by expounding on that theme, adding that “Coming up with that in-market solution is at the top of our agenda right now.”

Silver: “I wish I had a better answer that there was some short-term fix. In some ways, Denver has been the canary in the mine, because you’re seeing now that this issue is popping up in other markets in the country. Maybe not in such an extreme way, but you have other teams that are still continuing to be distributed through traditional means but large segments of their fans aren’t able to get the games.”

  • It’s interesting to note that Sunday’s Cowboys-Patriots national window game on CBS only happened because of the expanded NFL season this year. Cowboys-Pats, which is shaping up to be one of the most-watched games on the NFL schedule, was one of the 16 added games on this season’s schedule. The schedule this season pits the NFC East against the AFC West and the AFC East plays the NFC South. To create these new games, teams play an out-of-conference foe from a division they didn’t play last year or aren’t scheduled to play next year. Kudos to the NFL and CBS for creating such an entertaining matchup.
  • Disney is rolling out new creative during the third ad break of tonight’s “Monday Night Football” game targeting sports fans to buy the Disney bundle (Hulu/Disney+/ESPN+), notes SBJ’s Austin Karp. The spot, dubbed “More To Be A Fan Of,” compares big moments in sports to big moments in other types of entertainment that can be found on the bundle.
  • While viewership for the LDS round was down 9% compared to 2019, the entire MLB postseason is still up 3% compared to two years, notes Karp. The big gains for the Wild Card round are helping boost the figures. Looking at comps to last fall, the MLB postseason is up 89% (LDS + Wild Card rounds). 
  • An agreement announced today will see the continued carriage of ViacomCBS’ portfolio of networks for Altice USA’s Optimum and Suddenlink customers. The deal also provides Altice USA with rights to ViacomCBS’ suite of streaming services, including Paramount+, Showtime OTT, Pluto TV, BET+ and Noggin.
  • Though athletes have long pursued opportunities in pop culture, they’ve never before had such a direct ability to create and own their involvement, writes my colleague Chris Smith. Despite CP3TV’s early flop, Chris Paul never gave up the storytelling bug, and in 2017 he founded Ohh Dip!!! Productions. Paul has since used that vehicle to explore aspects of his own career and personal life, as well as subjects ranging from sports at HBCUs to the secondary sneaker market. Ohh Dip!!!’s credits include this year’s HBO doc “The Day Sports Stood Still” and the upcoming feature film “American Sole,” which stars Pete Davidson, among other projects.
  • Friday night saw WWE’s “SmackDown” and All Elite Wrestling’s “Rampage” go head-to-head for a brief period for the first time, and each company “put its best foot forward,” writes Bleacher Report. “SmackDown” aired an extra half-hour of commercial-free action on FS1 in order to run opposite of “Rampage,” which had a pre-show of its own that aired during the final stretch of “SmackDown.” Everything was “done by design to hurt the other product, but WWE does some of its strongest work when its back is up against the wall.”

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