Fox Sports scores big with Women’s World Cup

The Equalizer Staff July 9, 2015 43

It’s safe to say the Women’s World Cup was a booming success in the United States.

The U.S. beat Japan, 5-2 in a dominant display, of course, but things went well off the field, too. Fox Sports reports that it pulled in $40 million in advertising revenue for the month-long World Cup. The company had expected to only pull in $17 million.

The TV viewing numbers helped, too. The U.S.-Japan final drew 25.4 million viewers, making it the most-watched soccer match in history in the United States. An additional 1.2 million viewers watched in Spanish on Telemundo, representing a 97 percent increase from 2011.

As reference, the 2014 men’s World Cup generated $529 million in advertising revenue.

  • STL Athletica

    There has been considerable press outside of soccer news sources lamenting the pay the USWNT players are receiving from FIFA vs. their male counterparts. As much as anyone not on a WWC national team, I want the WWC players to make more money than they currently do. I have some questions, Equalizer Staff.

    It seems like $40M for the WWC is a U.S. number, and $529M for the MWC is a global number. If that’s true, could we please see a comparison of domestic advertising and worldwide advertising numbers?

    What were the average ratings per match for for each tournament?

    Was Fox charging the proper amount for its advertising slots?

    On the flip side, regarless of ratings and revenue, FIFA, with its enormous bank account, can afford to treat the two senior tournaments a bit like Wimbledon and have equal paydays between the men’s and women’s WC teams.

    • Steglitz49

      I think you will be frightened to find that the men’s FA cup final alone draws a bigger global audience than all of WC-15. The men’s Champions League final also does. One single match.

      A weatherwane will be how the women’s FA cup final pans out on August 1st. It is the first time in its 40+ history that it is being played at Wembley and, with the success of the Lionesses, there is no excuse for failing to sell out the stadium. That is an acid test.

      • mskillens

        It never amused me how guys are so quick to disregard the women’s successes. One wonders if someday they’ll feel threatened when the women’s game truly equals the mens’ game.

        • HM

          For someone who has 34,000 comments on EQ, Steg has a dismissive attitude towards woso.

          • ARED

            I think Steg’s point is that, while yes at first it seems like $40m against $529 must not be a comparison of US-only numbers, it actually is (I believe). That is the discrepancy, the reality. It doesn’t mean Steg or anybody else doesn’t want WoSo to succeed or doesn’t support it. It means you have to live in your reality, and hopefully make smart moves to improve it.

            ESPN/Univision spent $425 million for the rights to the last 2 Men’s WC’s. Fox/Telemundo spent over $1 billion for the rights to the next two. They don’t do that just to keep Eric Wynalda busy -they plan on making a lot of money back, mostly through ad revenues.

            The WWC’s were included in the deals, but Fox certainly don’t invest over $400 million with hopes of making $17 million x2 at WWC’s. They wanted (their share of) the $529 million x2.

            But, Canada 2015 proved to be better and bigger than expected, and so Fox will likely cash in all the more on their FIFA deal. $40 million x2 for WWC is quite a dent -before even getting to the growing numbers for the men. Plus, the potential of their “bonus” WC being in the USA in 2026 -which would break every barrier imaginable I’m sure. $$$.

          • BGRed

            Perhaps Fox “underpriced” their advertising slots and now can bump that up for future women’s games on the network. Or, from the competition side, networks will need to bid more for the rights. Either way, $$ for the players should increase. We need to keep in mind that “equal pay” is not about skill or team success…it is about basic economics.

          • Steglitz49

            They need “real” USWNT matches. That means the OG — which I don’t think belongs to FOX — and the next world cup in 2019.

            I doubt that another women’s tournaments will cut the mustard. Euro-17 and the AFC may well be good WoSo but won’t pull in the US viewers, sad to say.

            FOX could test the waters by broadcasting live the ladies FA Cup final on August 1st, but I doubt that they will bother.

          • They need to start airing as many games as possible. I think they would be surprised at the number of people who would tune in if given the opportunity.

            The last UEFA Women’s Euro was literally aired everywhere when I was traveling in Budapest in 2013. Every TV in every bar was tuned to whatever match was on. And this was in a European country who wasn’t even represented by a team.

            Meanwhile in the U.S. – during the World Cup – I had to request bars to tune into the matches and in many cases to turn on the volume on the TVs. I’ve had bars refuse to do so because it would disrupt the other patrons who were in the bar. But any time US soccer was actually on TV, patrons who weren’t there for the purpose of watching would show interest in the game. It’s just making it known to people that is the biggest hurdle, and that starts with TV visibility. Games need to be aired, including ALL U.S. friendlies, and sportscasters need to talk about Women’s Soccer.

            It starts at the top. They say people need to show interest before they will air it, but if they aired it, people would show interest. They are thinking backwards.

          • Steglitz49

            I think you are right.

            Btw, the Hungarian (men’s) NT of the early 1950s was something else. Puskas is the most famous but all were outstanding players.

          • Craigaroo

            Not sure if I agree with all of them, but interesting points. I’m a big fan like most others here but I still wonder how much of a TV audience the NWSL, for instance, can get. However, at least, since women’s soccer – in the form of the World Cup – has shown an ability to over-perform in the TV ratings, we can start expecting networks to take at least some prudent risks broadcasting games even if it means at times they will under-perform, just like any men’s sports they broadcast. Maybe there’s not much we can do as fans, but I guess we need to do what we can to generate as much buzz for the NWSL games that will be broadcast, especially the playoffs. At least we know many journalists are sympathetic and, presumably, some of their bosses are at least receptive.

          • ARED

            Yeah, it will certainly help Fox cash in for the future -starting with Russia 2018 (men’s). ESPN actually underpriced their ads for 2014 as well, so that plus now even the women outperforming expectation will show advertisers that there are huge numbers in the US for soccer, and they’ll be pounding down Fox’s door for 2018. France 2019 should also benefit, but I’m sure it will be dwarfed by the men’s yet again. But, there is at least some feeling of “a rising tide lifts all boats”. Esp in the US markets, both are growing at great pace.

            The other thing not to forget is time zones and technology. Russia will be tricky, and France won’t be as ideal for US TV as Canada was. But Fox should have plenty of time to offer both live middle-of-the night coverage on TV, internet, mobile, etc, as well as full replays and highlight shows in primetime. Gone are the days of waiting for the next day’s paper to find out who won….lol.

          • Steglitz49

            The key issue, which MsKillens and her bra-burning crowd forgets, is that the men’s game is pretty mature. Growing the ladies game means that those big stadiums can be sued to generate income from a totally different revenue stream and market.

            At present you can’t charge much for a ladies game but filling Emirates stadium with 60,000 screaming young ladies paying $10 for the pleasure, is still a turnover of $600,000 before your factor in foods, drinks and merchandise. In short, you are probably talking about a turnover of $200,000 per match if Arsenal Ladies make it — and more if they make it big!

          • Steglitz49

            Thank you for your support.

            It will be interesting to learn if FOX is prepared to show any matches from Euro-17 or the AFC. The whole tournament would be unresonable but the 2 semifinals and final seems a reasonable request.

            Also, will they broadcast the women’s FA cup final by buying it through BBC this August 1st?

          • ARED

            No problem. As for the FA Cup or Euro, doubt it, but I don’t see why not. As you say, just the final or SF and final isn’t that big of a commitment -esp since they can simply broadcast the BBC/international feed instead of doing their own coverage.

            Hard for me to imagine they couldn’t draw what some of the things found on weekend broadcast networks’ schedules. Dog shows, car racing, bike racing, sailing, rugby, etc. (But I’m sure people like all of those things too).

          • Steglitz49

            indeed. The BBC commentary will be in English. The Beeb will probably sell it as a loss-leader for precious little.

          • Tae

            Something interesting to me here as an aside, compare the WC deals to the top European league deals. The most recently available valuations for 4-season broadcast rights:
            Italy Serie A: $1.2 billion
            Germany Bundesliga: $923 million
            Spain La Liga: $864 million
            France Ligue 1: $846 million
            And Barclay’s Premier League? $3 billion.

          • Steglitz49

            It is much more fun watching the Premier League than any of the others. Also, it is sold it to the whole of the former British empire.

            It is said that the biggest brand name of all team sports is Manchester United because in all corners of the world there is a Man Utd shirt, even though Man Utd only became big after the Empire was gone and replace by the Commonwealth.

          • Tae

            More fun watching BPL than others? Seriously? Aston Villa? Big Sam football? Il campionato piu bello del mondo is Serie A. It’s true. What’s worth watching in BPL you’re better off getting in champions league, so you don’t have to watch the likes of Burnley and QPR.
            The Goldblatt book I mentioned goes into the spread of United colors by English sailors all throughout Empire. Yeah that’s impossible to compete with. Juventus had something similar on a much smaller scale when the factory workers of Turin emigrated to the Americas.
            But that advantage the English had was leveraged by their early embrace of satellite broadcasting. If they’d waited too long the old ties of empire might have dissipated more. I remember that debate, Italians and Spaniards rejected televised soccer as a terrible idea and even in England there was huge opposition.
            As it relates to WoSo, it’s like Slicey was saying, just get your product out there, don’t get too hemmed in by the realities of the current industry realities.

          • ARED

            I agree with all of you really. But Americans seem to like the EPL because 1) It is marketed the most/best and 2) It is “exotic” but still conveniently in their native tongue.

            I know many Americans who love soccer for soccer, but some just like it to be different. Like the guy who cheers for the Yankees instead of his hometown team. Either way, the EPL provides this with flashy hyped clubs galore, and low barriers to entry. But I think La Liga pure class and star power is looming large, and with the internet and more coverage fans are finding and supporting who they choose to instead of who is sold to them.

          • ARED

            Guess it’s a short-term cash grab (WC) vs. long-term cash cow (league play), eh?

          • Steglitz49

            Realistic and constructive, not dismissive.

          • augusto

            I love soccer and got disenchanted with men´s soccer.Turned to years ago. And didnot regret.
            I wonder how many of U americans incessantly talking here about money, money and more money.
            let´s talk soccer, outside the now ridiculous proportion of space/time/speed that completely blocks the pleasure of
            a grand beautiful move on the field.
            i mean talk women´s play. The game i love.

          • Steglitz49

            The NWSL does not run on Hail Marys. Someone has to pay the bills and defray the costs.

          • augusto

            hi, fortyniner, if you saying that if we go to the circus show on a saturday evening we both will have more fun in case the place, seats and canvas are shining and tidy, we ´re in full agreement.
            But frontly disagree if someone means that soccer´s magnetic attraction is in direct ratio of the money in there.
            It is not.

        • Steglitz49

          Please see ARED’s comment.

          I don’t know how many WoSo matches you have attended but for the past 5 years we have gone to every of our clubs homematches, some away matches and several international games. It is still depressing to be in such small crowds, The only big ones have been at major championships (where the ticket prices have been a fraction of a men’s match).

          The US has been the main engine for the growth of WoSo aided and abetted by some in other countries, not a few of them men. How the US continues to help WoSo grow from the platform of another WC is an pleasant position to be in.

          August 1st will give us an indication of where WoSo is headed.

          • Tae

            What’s your club?

          • Steglitz49

            We live in Europe now. So few go to matches here that I would no longer be Steg or S49. All mystique would be gone. The club has been quite successful over the years but it hovers on the brink of bankruptcy, having no wealthy person pouring millions (of dollars) into it.

        • fourTurns

          While there are men who disregard the women’s game, Steglitz is just stating the cold reality. Based on these numbers, the women’s game won’t equal the men’s game globally in the lifetime of anyone living today.

          90%+ of FIFA’s revenue comes from the Men’s World Cup. Everything else is investing for the future.

          In the US, the Women’s World Cup US matches meet or outclass men’s World Cup. But looking at other team matches, the men’s World Cup easily wins especially when considering the Spanish audience. In between WCs, the men’s matches from EPL to MLS to CL to Euros destroy women’s matches on tv.

          • Steglitz49

            Thank you for your support. Much obliged. Also for explaining the facts of life to MsKillens. Do you think she need a little something for the weekend?

      • Tae

        As far as the US goes though, CL final drew 1.8 overnight ratings. WC 2015 final drew a skull-exploding 15.2.
        1.8 for a CL final featuring Barcelona and Lionel Messi is pathetic btw. USA is not nearly as far along as I thought.

        • Steglitz49

          It is fascinating that when national honor is at stake, people will watch even ladies’ team games, not just womenin individual sports.

          As I typed elsewhere, the men’s FA Cup final and the Champions League final level peg it with the CL slightly higher. 2 years ago the global audience for the FA cup final was estimated to be about 500 million.

          The men’s FA cup is sponsored by Budweiser but they do not sponsor the ladies! As far as I know, Budweiser does nothing for WoSo in the US. Maybe they will now?

          If the Mob figure out a way of laundering money through WoSo, WoSo will change forever — and, obviously, not necessarily for the better.

    • Quest

      There’s no way the US soccer audience for the men’s WC drew $529 million.

    • ARED

      I posted below -I think the numbers are both US values. There is information available mostly on the USA matches for Fox. They drew quite well, and Fox must be thrilled with the $40m number. They did hold some ad slots to sell late when the demand had increased so they cashed in somewhat, but they sold a majority in advance. So they potentially could have made even more. ESPN undersold somewhat for the 2014 WC as well I believe.

      As for your final point though, I just have to say that is simply not realistic (of “fair”, or anything else but a dream for the future). Sure FIFA is evil and has lots of money. But as the article and my posts state, the financial figures between the two just aren’t even in the same ballpark. Consider that there are only a dozen(?) legitimate WoSo markets (and arguably the best, the USA, draws a league average of 4,000 people and broadcasts its matches free online). Meanwhile a men’s friendly in countless nations will draw crowds/ratings better than a WWC match would, while leagues are religiously supported. And even the USA -an average market for men’s soccer- has 2 leagues which average over 6,000 and a third that averages over 3,000. Which is more than the NWSL average if Portland is discounted.

      This is not a matter like Wimbledon, where a women’s may at times actually be a hotter ticket than a comparable men’s match. As Steglitz says, the Men’s FA Cup Final is considered a secondary trophy, but it regularly attracts 90,000 people to Wembley. Meanwhile, only 4 times would the Women’s FA Cup Final crowd not fit inside Wimbledon’s Centre Court (15,000).

      • sweetjazz3

        But companies don’t spend their money proportionally across revenue streams. They spend on opportunities for GROWTH. Arguably, there is much more potential for growth in the women’s game than the men’s. Thus, not only is FIFA’s decision unfair to some on equality grounds, it may well be incredibly foolish on financial grounds.

        • Tae

          I love this point. The takeaway for me from that piece isn’t $529 million for men and $40 million for women. It’s $17 million anticipated and $40 million realized on the women’s side. It would take massive money to eke out marginal gains on the men’s side, but a comparatively tiny well targeted infusion of money into the women’s side could have massive gains. WoSO will be limited for the indefinite future by the fact that large swathes of the globe don’t allow women to do anything, but you have to think FIFA is leaving money on the table in Europe and the Americas and parts of Asia.

          • AlexH

            The only way to find out for sure is if FIFA de-couples the MWC and WWC from the same TV package.

          • ARED

            True, and a very good point. But worth remembering that even a 1% profit on a $500 million investment outperforms a 20% profit on a $20 million investment. So while the room for growth is large, it’s starting from a much smaller scale -and, the risk is much greater.

            In my actual opinion, of course the WC is the huge cash cow, and a company should focus on that as their primary income. However, in my estimation there is certainly an undervaluing of the potential of the WWC and women’s game in general, which could add substantial secondary income. But, I see nothing along the lines of “inequality”….just missed opportunity -by the supposed “champions of the women’s game”. A bit insulting to say the least, just like the turf fields.

        • ARED

          I agree that growth is a huge factor and must be taken into account. And that FIFA has not had enough (any??) faith in the growth of the women’s game, let alone sufficient support.

          But, all the same you can’t force or expect any company to take on risk at the level the public wishes them to. We can all analyze the risk and even make good arguments that FIFA is missing out on future earnings, but since we aren’t FIFA we can’t make that call. So just b/c they don’t buy in to the potential growth, doesn’t make it a clearcut issue of equality or unfairness. I think it was a poor judgement call by Jill Ellis to misuse or not use Christen Press, but the fact that she did so does not mean she is being unfair or biased against her. She made a judgment call, which her position and power entitles her to do.

          Now, with FIFA being a supposed “of the people, for the people” organization, there should be room for change and growth -inspired from grassroots levels-pro levels-national federations-international organizations-etc to change things for the better. So, it is up to us. (Or else it is corrupt. Probably a mix of both.).

  • Steglitz49

    FIFA have announced the goals of WC-15 to be voted for. The US is represented by Lauren and Carli.

  • AlexH

    So given that a lot of the earlier commentary seems to agree that the real challenge for woso lies in expanding beyond the US borders, I wonder if the “Victory Tour” should have fewer US stops and a few in Europe. I am pretty sure that the English and French would like to try their luck against the USA seeing as how they weren’t afforded the opportunity in the WC. Might those 2 fixtures sell out a big stadium in Europe? Also another US trip to Brazil in anticipation of the Olympics might also put some butts in the seats.

    • Tae

      England-USA, soon, with the squads that played in 2015 should be a no brainer given the nature of the English loss. No disrespect to Japan but isn’t that the final everyone wanted?

  • Dierdre Popov

    Fox is a poor choice for the U.S. broadcast partner for the WWC.

    Their predominant interest is in expanding their sports channel lineup, not in reaching viewers. Thus the majority of WWC games were shown on Fox’s cable channels: Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2, not on Fox’s over-the-air broadcast channels which reach over a hundred million viewers.

    The reach of FS1 is below average when compared to cable sports standard-bearers like ESPN.

    The reach of FS2 is abysmal, as many cable companies (Comcast notable among them) don’t even carry FS2, making it impossible for cable subscribers to watch anything shown on FS2.

    Further, in this modern world of online streaming, Fox offers nothing in terms of on-demand streaming of matches.

    If you can’t watch the event live as it takes place on Fox, FS1, or FS2 (or online on Fox Sports Go, their online streaming application), you’ll never be able to see it (unless you happen to catch an arbitrarily-timed replay on TV.)

    ESPN is head and shoulders above Fox Sports in this regard: nearly every event that ESPN broadcasts is available on WatchESPN for on-demand streaming for a period of up to 30 days after the event.

    Fox has dismayingly managed to corral the U.S. broadcast rights to a large array of upcoming national and international soccer events.

    It’s to their discredit that they continue to do this solely in their own service, rather than in the service of the average soccer fan and TV viewer.

  • David Clark

    The World Cup 2015 Canada will be broad casted by many TV channels all around the world. But due to the restrictions and licensing issues, many of the regions would get a syndicated run or no access at all. But we are still going to list down the channels and the regions where the Women’s Soccer World Cup will be available for transmission.