Radio Misses Out on Women’s World Cup or Did It?
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.
During Tuesday’s #SRCHAT (Sports Radio Chat on Twitter) guys seemed flummoxed as to why.
— Mark Zinno (@MarkZinno) July 8, 2015
A3: Yes. Especially in the markets that already broadcast MLS games. Big miss here. #srchat
— The Sports Den (@SportsDenShow) July 8, 2015
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.