Pawtucket Times

Fox likes winter World Cup

Event begins this weekend in Qatar


When Fox Sports’ David Neal first heard in 2015 that FIFA was moving the World Cup to near the holiday season, he thought it would be the biggest lump of coal for Fox and soccer supporters.

However, Neal and others have discovered that the world’s biggest soccer tournament moving from summer to late fall because of Qatar’s desert heat could be the ultimate gift for Fox, Telemundo and sports fans.

Yes, the World Cup will compete with the NFL, college football and other events during a traditiona­lly jam-packed time on the sports calendar. But, it has been football since Labor Day weekend that has helped promote fútbol’s biggest quadrennia­l event, which begins on Sunday.

“The pluses greatly outweigh the minuses,” said Neal, Fox’s executive producer for the World Cup. “It starts with cross-promotion. Being able to benefit from being promoted on our football platforms, you can’t attach a number to how valuable that is in raising awareness.”

Fox Sports holds the English-language rights, while Telemundo is the Spanish-language broadcaste­r.

The Spanish-language numbers are just as important when measuring soccer audiences in the United States. During the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the overall average for the tournament was 4.7 million viewers, with 1.9 million — or 40.4 percent — tuning in on Telemundo.

Mark Marshall, president of advertisin­g sales and partnershi­ps at NBCUnivers­al, noted that the Hispanic customer represents almost 20% of the U.S. population and $2.8 trillion of an estimated U.S. Hispanic GDP.

“The World Cup is the ultimate place for brands to reach and engage this audience in the U.S.,” Marshall said. “Almost three-quarters of Latinos 16 and older say they’re soccer fans, and over half say they’ve reshuffled their priorities to watch an important soccer match. There are

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