Home > Uncategorized > Radio Misses Out on Women’s World Cup or Did It?

Radio Misses Out on Women’s World Cup or Did It?

USA midfielder Carli Lloyd (10) celebrates her goal with teammates during the final football match between USA and Japan during their 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup at the BC Place Stadium in Vancouver on July 5, 2015.  AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFEFRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images


Disclaimer: This column is my educated opinion based on past dealings and experiences with FIFA, ESPN and other rights deals. It’s meant to inform how these decisions are made and not meant to be a reporting of facts as they happened in this specific situation. 

There has been quite a bit of chatter in the sports radio community about whether or not the play-by-play of the Women’s World Cup, specifically the U.S. team games, should have been made available over radio.

It wasn’t.

During Tuesday’s #SRCHAT (Sports Radio Chat on Twitter) guys seemed flummoxed as to why.

First off, let’s let this soak in. Sports radio pros are clamoring for WOMEN’S SOCCER!! This is a great break-through (or would have been in 1993) and an encouraging sign of things to come (until they forget about it.)

The hype and bluster around this is our fault. Sports radio’s interest in this game is surface, passive, and band-wagonny. It’s jiggery-pokery. It’s pure apple sauce.

I can tell you in 2010 getting stations to carry the men’s World Cup was a struggle. So much so, ESPN let most markets cherry pick the U.S. men’s game.

And that’s the problem.

ESPN or any media company who is distributing play-by-play (Compass, Westwood One, Learfield, etc.) have to broker a rights agreement for the whole tournament regardless of how far Team U.S.A. advances. Sometimes this means big money, guaranteed clearances, and promotional considerations. And were talking about making a deal with FIFA, so you can imagine the rights agreement read like a rider for the Motley Crüe tour.

So the business model looks something like this:

Media Company “A” buys rights to the FIFA World Cup for $1 million (totally made up number).

There are 52 games over 30 days. FIFA wants a guarantee that at least 20 games will be broadcast nationwide. It wants clearance in the Top 50 markets for all 20 games. And it wants “X” minutes of promotion on radio and TV over the course of the tournament.

That means Media Company “A” has to get commitments from affiliates in the Top 50 markets and in order to recoup the investment for rights fees sell advertising into the games with the promise of at least 20 games in the Top 50 markets. Team USA only appeared in 7 games this time around and they won the whole thing, so at least 13 games are featuring teams from someplace else.

Media Company “A” must clear $50,000 per game after production costs just to break even. But, this is business. Nobody brokers a deal to break even.

And here’s the rub for radio stations. If Team USA gets bounced in an early round they are still committed to airing the games. With pre- and post-game shows and the match it’s at least a two-hour commitment for each game. Not many stations will surrender 40 hours worth of spot loads and programming for the hope that Team USA catches fire. If stations back out of the commitment midway (aside from facing contractual legal issues itself), Media Company “A” violates its agreement with FIFA and likely loses all revenue from advertisers.

Which begs the question not would you carry the Women’s World Cup Final featuring team USA, but would you carry a women’s World Cup qualifier featuring teams from Uruguay and Germany during afternoon drive? Of course you wouldn’t.

Too much risk, not enough reward; that’s why no one distributed the Women’s World Cup on radio.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. July 8, 2015 at 10:13 AM

    Thank goodness for SiriusXMFC. Although the broadcasts were merely simulcasts of television (similar to coverage of Europe and certain leagues featured on Bein), it at least gave me a chance to hear portions of games while I was driving. I was actually surprised to hear the opening Men’s World Cup game broadcast on a terrestrial station from Grand Rapids, as I never figured it would even be on radio (maybe only streamed online). I don’t know how many markets air Westwood One’s distribution of talkSPORT’s coverage of Premier League games, but hopefully that number is growing as that league becomes more popular here. (NBC’s television deal has done wonders to get it to more people.)

  2. Travis Eby
    July 8, 2015 at 10:40 AM

    Maybe this year, yes. But how about some forward thinking? Maybe media company A ties up the deal for the next 3 women’s world cups. After team USA’S performance this year….the price goes up next time. Maybe a flagging medium like radio needs to take calculated risks in order to capture the hearts and minds of today’s, and tomorrow’s sports fan who’s appetite for soccer is only increasing. Or…you can just keep saying “Nah…let’s just let TV own it”…In business you gotta take risks if you want to win big.

    • July 8, 2015 at 10:55 AM

      Travis, appreciate the response as always. Calculated risks are important for growth and success. I agree. Media companies should go for it. I’m not holding the purse strings. Worth considering is where Women’s World Cup Soccer falls on the depth chart of sports a company wants to invest in now or in the future. NFL, MLB, NBA, NCAA Mens BB and Football are at the top and even though on radio they don’t always generate revenue and audience (though match ups and consequences are important factors). The Olympics used to be an important property to have but becoming less so. Maybe the risk being taken is on Cricket or NHL or NASCAR. I dunno. What I do know, in general, Media Companies are seeing less and less return on value for big money deals, so rights agreements need to be restructured to include less cash up front if leagues want to continue distribution on radio.

      nice dig on the “Flagging medium” of radio too. 🙂 While it seems to get knocked at every turn, radio still reaches 93% of Americans each week. Still vital, still capturing hearts and minds. Though I know you’re a Sirius/XM guy — a 7-percenter.

      • Travis Eby
        July 9, 2015 at 2:37 PM

        Ha. I thought you’d like that. Just like we all picked up on your subtle dig on soccer…not paying for satellite these days either. Still love radio bro!

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