Early World Cup rounds on Fox’s networks drew nearly a third fewer viewers than in 2014. Sources say Fox is now expected to lose money on the 2018 tournament.
The ratings suggest that the growth in soccer’s popularity in the U.S. in recent years doesn’t translate to TV viewing unless the national team is involved.
Fox will spend some $900 million on soccer rights through the 2026 World Cup, and plans to focus even more on sports if it follows through on a sale of entertainment assets to either Walt Disney Co. or Comcast Corp.
The ratings have also been hurt by the early start times for games as the 2014 World Cup was held in Brazil.
Like Fox, Telemundo won’t show a profit for the World Cup, people familiar with the matter said.
Fox outbid ESPN for English-language rights to the World Cup and other FIFA properties in 2011. It offered $425 million, people with knowledge of the deal said at the time, dwarfing the $100 million ESPN had paid in the previous FIFA deal.