The UEFA European Championships (or “Euro”) U.S. rights have been with ESPN since 2008, and they’ve brought in solid numbers for that network (and also for U.S. Spanish-language broadcasts and Canadian broadcasts, adding to their overall stature), including for Euro 2020 (Italy’s title celebration seen above). But they now look like another major world soccer event that may transition from ESPN to Fox, following the FIFA World Cup (which made that move ahead of the 2018 tournament). Here’s more on that from John Ourand of Sports Business Journal:
Fox Sports is close to taking the UEFA European Championship rights from ESPN, according to several sources. Nothing has been signed officially yet, but sources expect a deal for U.S. rights to be announced within the next two weeks. ESPN has held these rights since 2008 and has built up the Euros into a jewel event. Deal terms still are being negotiated, but sources say that Fox will have the rights through 2028, which would include Euro 2024 and Euro 2028, in addition to the UEFA Nations League and European qualifiers.
…The deal marks a big win for Fox, as the Euros fit the media company’s soccer strategy, which is more focused on big events with national teams rather than individual clubs. Fox boasts an enviable summer schedule over the next four years, which includes the FIFA World Cup next year, the Women’s World Cup in 2023, the Euro 2024 and the Concacaf Gold Cup in 2025. It also holds the rights to the South America’s Copa America.
Yes, as Ourand notes, Fox’s current soccer approach has been far more focused around big short-duration international events than regular coverage of domestic leagues. And their larger current sports strategy appears to be prioritizing events that will draw decently on broadcast Fox in particular, with cable channels FS1 and FS2 as more of an afterthought. And the Euro tournament could certainly fit that bill; it’s in the summer when they don’t have a ton of other rights, and they could put big matches on broadcast Fox and relegate the others to FS1 and/or FS2.
An interesting part of this is that Fox has perhaps the least robust streaming strategy of any of the potential bidders. Ourand’s piece notes that a big part of what’s been appealing with soccer content for networks is the ability to put less-prominent matches behind a streaming-service paywall, and Fox doesn’t have that, unlike ESPN (ESPN+), CBS (Paramount+), and NBC (Peacock). Fox does have an affiliation with their own ad-supported streaming service Tubi, but so far at least, they’ve only been able to get minimal sports rights there. And that’s arguably hurt them in positioning for other rights. So it’s certainly notable that Fox looks set to win more significant soccer rights.
It should be noted that this is far from signed, sealed, and delivered yet. Ourand’s piece only has Fox as “close” to taking these rights, and it’s possible that that piece itself might prompt competitors to up their bids. And all of ESPN, CBS, and NBC are heavily invested in various forms of soccer at this point, and it’s certainly possible to see any of them winning these rights. But it does make sense that this is an event that Fox is willing to put significant resources into a bid for, and it would fit well with their current World Cup, Women’s World Cup, and Copa America rights. We’ll see if they can pull this off.