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Fox, Telemundo get US World Cup rights

By Graham Dunbar

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Oct. 21 2011 4:09 p.m. MDT

ZURICH — Fox won the English-language U.S. television rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups on Friday, outbidding ESPN and NBC for soccer's showpiece tournament.

Fox agreed to pay more than $400 million for the two-tournament package, a person familiar with the bidding told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because the figure was not made public.

ESPN paid $100 million to show the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and the 2014 event in Brazil. The World Cup will be held in Russia in 2018 and in Qatar in 2022.

Telemundo was awarded the Spanish-language deal by also defeating a rights holder, Univision. Telemundo is owned by NBC Universal.

The contracts cover tournament finals in all FIFA competitions from 2015-22, also giving Fox the Women's World Cup in 2015 and '19. It also secured all radio rights.

"The FIFA World Cup and Women's World Cup are two of the world's biggest competitions," Fox chairman David Hill said in a statement. "It is our privilege to be entrusted with these rights in the United States."

Fox adds soccer's biggest event to a portfolio of rights that includes the UEFA Champions League, the English Premier League and Italy's Serie A.

The network is expected to televise the final and some top matches on its main over-the-air network and the majority on Fox Soccer and other of its cable networks, such FX and Fox Soccer Plus. That is similar to The Walt Disney Co. formula, which has been to televise the final and a few matches on ABC, but most on ESPN and ESPN2.

Acquiring FIFA rights is expected to drive distribution for Fox Soccer with cable carriers. Fox Soccer is avaiable in 40 million U.S. households, while ESPN and ESPN2 are each available in nearly 99 million.

ESPN, which holds the English-language rights for the 2014 tournament in Brazil, earlier acknowledged defeat in its 2018-2022 bid.

"We made a disciplined bid that would have been both valuable to FIFA and profitable for our company, while continuing to grow our unprecedented coverage of the World Cup and Women's World Cup events," the sports cable network said in a statement. "We were aggressive while remaining prudent from a business perspective."

ESPN also broadcast the 2010 World Cup in South Africa after getting a two-tournament package with 2014 rights. ESPN paid $100 million and Univision paid $325 million for its 2010-2014 deal, making the U.S. FIFA's most lucrative national market.

FIFA made the decisions after the networks submitted bids at its Swiss headquarters on Wednesday and Thursday.

Spanish-language radio rights went to Futbol de Primera Radio.

FIFA earns about 90 percent of its revenue from broadcasting, sponsorship and marketing deals tied to the World Cup. The world body calculates it earned $2.4 billion in broadcast sales worldwide just for the 2010 tournament.

Qatar defeated the U.S. in the final round of voting for the 2022 World Cup in a five-country contest last December.

FIFA announced in March it already sold $1.7 billion worth of 2018-2022 broadcast rights to the Middle East and parts of Asia and Latin America. The deals were 90 percent more valuable than the same regions earned for 2010-2014, FIFA said.

AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report from St. Louis.

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