Football's "momentous" TV rights deal in the USA

FIFA has awarded US TV rights for all its events to ABC/ESPN and UNIVISION in the biggest deal for a single territory in its history.

Football's world governing body has secured an unprecedented long-term commitment from the two networks that covers television broadcasting and a wide range of media rights, such as multimedia broadband internet and mobile telephony, to all FIFA events for the US territory from 2007 to 2014.

According to FIFA, the agreement consists of a record cash payment of US$ 425 million and ABC/ESPN and UNIVISION will additionally run substantial promotions for FIFA events and the FIFA brand across the USA during the entire period of the contract.

ABC Sports and ESPN have been granted the exclusive English language rights to cover the 2010 FIFA World Cup and the 2014 FIFA World Cup in full within the US territory as well as the FIFA Women's World Cups in 2007 and 2011 and all 11 other FIFA events. At the same time, UNIVISION has secured the equivalent Spanish language options.

How far football's come in the USA:

FIFA president Joseph Blatter called this a "momentous deal" and a recent observation by US sports writer Michael Hiestand adds perspective to that claim:

"ABC, NBC and Fox have talked to FIFA, soccer's world governing body, about paying for English-language US. TV rights for the World Cups in 2010 and 2014. That a network might actually write a check might not sound like a breakthrough. But no network would pay for the TV package for the 2002 and 2006 Cups, which also included the 2003 Women's World Cup," he recalled in USA Today.

"That left Major League Soccer, founded in 1996 to capitalize on soccer interest that would supposedly bloom after the USA hosted the 1994 Cup, having to buy those rights for $40 million so the games would air. Then MLS, through its marketing arm, bought time on ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 and included its TV rights as part of the package ..."

Stunning progress.