After last week’s news that Fox and Telemundo were in all intents and purposes handed the rights to the 2026 FIFA World Cup without any bidding from other networks, observers knew that a late-year World Cup in 2022 waslikely. Now with Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl reporting that a November/December 2022 World Cup in Qatar is in essence a done deal, let’s take a look at how Fox will cope with the event in what will be a busy time on the U.S. sports calendar.
Unlike the previous World Cups, this one will be held when sports fans are focusing on football, pro and college. In November and December, basketball both college and the NBA are just beginning their seasons. The NHL is fully underway and there are several NCAA Championships which are being held in November and December.
It will be difficult for soccer to gain traction at this time, but it is an international event and fans will rally around the flag especially if the United States qualifies again. With Qatar being 8 hours ahead of the Eastern time zone and 11 ahead of the West Coast, games will go from the early morning hours to the early afternoon.
Basing the times on the 2014 World Cup in Brazil which played early round games at 2 p.m., 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. local time, that means we’ll see them from Qatar at 6 a.m., 9 a.m. and noon ET. Let’s take a look at how Fox might schedule the World Cup with potential sports and local news conflicts in mind:
- 6 a.m. ET: Many local Fox stations carry their own news programming (in Boston it lasts from 4 a.m. until 10 a.m.) and they aren’t going to give up that time to the World Cup unless the USMNT is playing and even that might not be enough for the Fox network affiliates to air them. Expect that match to be aired on Fox Sports 1.
- 9 a.m. ET: Depending if the U.S. is playing here, Fox could carry the game in this timeslot and especially on weekends when there won’t be any football conflicts.
- noon ET: Fox might air this game during the week, but on weekends (especially on NFL Sundays), expect this to be shuffled to Fox Sports 1 to solve any fútbol/football conflicts.
Don’t expect Fox to match the record ratings from last year for Brazil, but ESPN got the perfect storm, a U.S. team that went to the knockout round and games that were U.S. time zone-friendly. Qatar will be less friendly, especially to West Coasters who will have to watch the first game at 3 a.m.
Fox will do its best to market the World Cup in the midst of a busy time in the U.S. There will be heavy promotion during the World Series (depending if Fox still has rights to MLB after 2021) and on the NFL as it will be in the last year of its contract. It could even say the World Cup will be part of a “November to Remember” with the beginning of college basketball season, college football, NFL and soccer.
It’s going to be interesting to see how Fox will be able to fit everything in, but with all of its platforms, if there’s a will, there will be a way. It could even end up being beneficial to the ratings – imagine Fox using the World Cup as a lead in to the NFL on Fox on Sunday mornings. The competition might not be as bad for the games in those early morning timeslots, but for the studio programming that surrounds the World Cup. Fox just won’t have the time that we’ve seen ESPN be able to commit in terms of studio analysis, replays, and more. Fox Sports is going to be busy in November and December 2022 with crews spread all over the U.S. and Qatar. It has plenty of time to get ready and prepare.