After losing out on FIFA World Cup rights to Fox Sports and English Premier League rights to NBC Sports, John Ourand of Sports Business Daily reports that ESPN will win exclusive English language rights for the 2020 European Championship tournament, set to take place in 13 different European countries.
ESPN had some competition to obtain Euro 2020 rights. Fox Sports, NBC Sports and beIN Sports all reportedly put in bids but ESPN won out, with Univision winning Spanish language rights. This deal also includes rights to FIFA World Cup Qualifying games as well as the new UEFA Nations League, which is a new promotion/relegation league involving national teams that takes place in the years in between the World Cup and Euros.
The Worldwide Leader really had to pay a premium compared to previous Euro tournaments that ESPN has been involved with. Previously and currently, ESPN and Fox Sports have split rights for UEFA games, but ESPN held the rights to the actual 2012 and 2016 tournaments for a total of $16 million. Fox had reportedly paid $50 million for English and Spanish language rights to Euro 2016 and 2018 World Cup Qualifying games which sometimes get sublicensed to ESPN. Now, ESPN will pay around $110 million for this new deal which includes everything from the tournament to the Nations League and all the Qualifiers involving UEFA teams. Essentially, after the 2018 World Cup, ESPN will be the exclusive home for European international games.
ESPN needed to make a big bid because they couldn’t afford to lose the Euros. NBC has the English Premier League. Fox has the FIFA Men’s and Women’s World Cup, UEFA Champions and Europa League, Bundesliga and FA Cup. Other than Euro 2016, ESPN shares MLS rights with Fox as well as the occasional USMNT and USWNT game. And while ESPN doesn’t have the rights, Fox sublicenses the occasional UEFA Champions League and World Cup Qualifying game to ESPN. ESPN grabbing exclusive rights to UEFA international games was important in order to keep up with the increasing competition from other networks for soccer coverage. ESPN was the network who televised soccer when it wasn’t popular. Now that it is getting more and more popular with seemingly no limit in sight and networks now wanting a piece of the soccer rights pie, it would have been very embarrassing for ESPN if they lost out on televising the Euros.