For much of the past decade, since the 2009-10 season, the TV broadcast rights for the Champions League in the USA have been held by Fox. Their coverage has been sub-standard from the very beginning, to say the least — especially when compared to NBC’s excellent coverage of the Premier League, for which they outbid Fox in 2013 — and included the whole Gus Johnson expirement/debacle/mind-melt, too, lest we forget. Lately, they haven’t even bothered to send match announcers to the actual games.
But, all that is set to end soon. According to World Soccer Talk (née EPL Talk), Fox have been outbid for both the English and Spanish language rights in the next three-year rights-cycle by Turner Sports and Univision, respectively. The new deals are set to start in 2018 and will run through 2021. So one more season after the current one with Fox Sports, then it’s on to bigger and better things.
Turner Sports, who paid $60m for the three-year deal are undoubtedly a massive surprise. While they do have a strong presence in both college (NCAA) and professional basketball (NBA) on TBS, TNT, and truTV, as well as some baseball games (including playoffs), the last time they broadcast soccer was back during the 1990 World Cup! Here’s a taste of Randy Hahn and Ty Keough, both experienced soccer commentators (and player, in Keough’s case) from the way-back machine. Hahn is mostly known for hockey these days and is the voice of the NHL’s San Jose Sharks.
In any case, it’s not quite clear how or on which channels Turner will broadcast the Champions League, but at least we can say goodbye to games on Fox Sports 2 and the overpriced Fox Soccer 2Go. According to several reports, Turner (and soon to be parent company AT&T, who also own DirecTV) are making a big play in the sports space and this is just the latest example.
Incidentally, the biggest competition for Turner for the Champions (and Europa) League rights was not Fox, ESPN, or NBC (who did make a token bid), but a company called BAMTech, which started life as the streaming technology behind the excellent Major League Baseball family of online media, but now has expanded to handle the streaming services for the NHL, WWE, HBO, and Eurosport as well. Digital, on-demand, and hopefully cord-free is clearly the future, and the assumption is that Turner will be making the games available for streaming as well. According to the same report, Turner and NBC in fact combined their streaming services just recently to better compete with BAMTech.
Meanwhile, Univision paid $35m for the Spanish language rights and that is exciting in and of itself since the Spanish-American media giants are often at the forefront of new streaming options, such as showing games via Facebook.
In any case, the main takeaway is that Fox is out, and there shall be much rejoicing.