— Published 17 July 2023

For FIFA, the 2023 World Cup will start in the red

The worst is avoided and the threat of a black screen definitively averted. The 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand (July 20 to August 20), the first ever to be organized by two countries, and the first with a 32-team final phase, has attracted a full house of broadcasters.

Gianni Infantino’s outcry last May against the ridiculously low bids from European TV channels – “unacceptable“, according to the FIFA President, as “20 to 100 times lower than those received for the men’s World Cup” – has had the desired effect.

The initial agreement with the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), signed last autumn and covering 28 countries, has now been extended to France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK and Ukraine. The end of the soap opera.

But at what price? FIFA has not revealed the outcome of its tug-of-war with the broadcasters. But according to the Wall Street Journal, it has significantly scaled back its ambitions.

Admittedly, it has saved face by ensuring coverage of the global tournament in the main markets for women’s soccer. But it failed to achieve, or even come close to, its objective. It is said to be a hundred million dollars in the red.

The American daily reports that FIFA was aiming to recoup $300 million from the sale of the rights to the global tournament. This seemed a reasonable target, given that Gianni Infantino has repeatedly stated that the Women’s World Cup now attracts audiences equal to “50-60%” of its male counterpart.

But at last count, a good third of the hoped-for audiovisual revenues were still missing. FIFA was expecting to collect around $150 million in new broadcasting contracts, signed all over the world since the men’s World Cup 2022 in Qatar. However, with less than a week to go before the opening match, only 50 million new rights have been sold.

As a reminder, the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand is the first for which FIFA has conducted negotiations with potential broadcasters for full or shared exclusivity. Until then, rights had often been assigned as a sort of bonus to channels that had acquired footage of the men’s tournament.

In France, the 2023 Women’s World Cup has finally been bought by France Télévisions and M6, after a long period of uncertainty and rejections from potential broadcasters. The agreement was reached just one month before the start of the competition, after strong pressure from the French Ministry of Sports. The value of the contract was not disclosed.

In Great Britain, FIFA also saved the day by reaching an agreement with the BBC and ITV. According to several sources, the amount involved is just over $10 million, less than 10% of the sum paid for the men’s World Cup 2022 in Qatar.

In the United States, where the tournament will be broadcast by the Fox Group, advertising revenues are expected to be historic. With just over a month to go, the channel announced in mid-June that it had sold over 90% of its advertising space before, during and immediately after the matches.

Leading the list of advertisers were brands from the automotive, insurance, telecommunications and technology sectors. Cell phone operator Verizon will sponsor the pre-game show, while German carmaker Volkswagen has secured the half-time slot. Google, for its part, will also be present for the thirty or so matches – out of the tournament’s 64 – offered by Fox on its television channels.