ESPN miffed as Fox Sports and Telemundo swoop in for FIFA World Cup rights

ESPN is experiencing something new--getting left out of a major sports TV licensing deal.

Cable's most powerful programming brand has been left publicly miffed, after Fox Sports and NBCUniversal's Telemundo swooped in and secured TV rights from global soccer organizing body FIFA for the next three World Cup Tournaments. ESPN says it was left out in the cold throughout the bidding process, despite partnering with Univision for the 2014 FIFA World Cup tournament in June.

Reads an ESPN statement: "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."

ESPN is particularly upset that it wasn't informed that the 2026 event--which doesn't even have a host city yet--was part of the bidding.

Fox Sports and Telemundo paid about $1 billion to secure rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, about four times what ESPN and Univision paid for last year's tournament.

"We heard the news yesterday with the press release FIFA sent out," ESPN president John Skipper told Bloomberg. "It's a less than ideal way for a former partner to hear about it."

For more:
- read this NBCU press release
- read this ESPN statement

Related links:
Disney profits soar 19% despite ESPN deals eating into cable performance
Report: ESPN will not provide a la carte pro soccer this year
ESPN nets record 33.4M viewers with College Football Championship

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