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2023 Women’s World Cup TV rights bids deemed too low by Fifa

World soccer’s governing body hoping to capitalise on record viewership for women’s game in 2022.

20 October 2022 Ed Dixon

Getty Images

  • Broadcasters should pay “what the women’s game deserves”, says Fifa’s chief business officer
  • Tournament taking place in Australia and New Zealand, meaning games won’t be shown in primetime across Europe
  • 2019 Women’s World Cup was watched by record 1.12bn viewers

Fifa has called on broadcasters to make improved offers for television rights to the 2023 Women’s World Cup, after rejecting bids it deemed too low.

Romy Gai, Fifa’s chief business officer, revealed in an interview that world soccer’s governing body had already turned down offers from networks to air the tournament in Italy, Germany, France and the UK. Gai added that he expects a similar outcome in Spain, but did not state which broadcasters had submitted bids for the showpiece event.

“This is not a case of being priced out, but rather testament to a lack of willingness of broadcasters to pay what the women’s game deserves,” said Gai, who pointed to the increase in TV viewership at the 2019 Women’s World Cup.

“Audience figures show that the Women’s World Cup 2019 in France was a catalyst for change in terms of TV audience,” he continued. “A combined 1.12 billion viewers tuned into official broadcast coverage across all platforms of the final between America and the Netherlands, which became the most watched Fifa Women’s World Cup match ever.”

Gai also acknowledged the discrepancy between media rights values for men’s and women’s soccer. He said that for female matches in the UK, broadcasters pay roughly two per cent of what they do for the male equivalent, despite the women’s audience being equal to about 20 per cent of the men’s.

“We know the opportunity for women’s football is there,” said Gai. “Now, together, we need to capture it.”

SportsPro says…

There is a predictability about Fifa trying to eke out more money from one its tournaments. In this case, though, Gai’s comments seem in response to the rising tide of women’s soccer, rather than a generic cry for extra revenue.

As for why European broadcasters are yet to pay what Fifa wants, time difference could be a contributor. Next year’s Women’s World Cup will be held in Australia and New Zealand, with evening games airing earlier in the day in Europe, making it tricker for people to tune in.

Perhaps networks are also still apprehensive about the commercial pull of the women’s game. For example, this summer’s Uefa Women’s Euro 2022 may have been a lossmaker, but it managed a projected global live viewership of 365 million across 195 territories – a record for the event.

Fifa appears to be asking media to invest in the potential of female soccer, not just the here and now. Broadcasters still comparing the women’s sport to the men’s side, which has enjoyed decades of extra investment and exposure, will not help matters.

Still, the expectation inside Fifa is that next year’s Women’s World Cup will eclipse the 2019 edition’s record-breaking viewership. That will surely remain a key selling point as the governing body goes back to the market.

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