The Mexicans are coming — and there’s absolutely nothing Donald Trump can do about it.
In the wake of the United States’ failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Fox Sports is left with just one of the two teams it planned to make the centerpiece of its coverage. And that’s the team from south of the border.
Fox Sports executive David Neal said earlier this year that Mexico “is really our second home team at Fox” in an interview with The Wrap. “Every day we want to do coverage of Mexico whether or not they’re playing.”
As it turned out, much of the network’s coverage of the 2017 Confederations Cup focused on El Tri as Fox focused on the approximately 35 million Mexican Americans in the United States.
The team and those viewers became even more important when Team USA lost to Trinidad and Tobago and failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986.
Fox already has made a huge investment in the 2018 World Cup. Not only did it pay $400 million for the American TV rights, but it is planning 350 hours of coverage from Russia.
It’s now faced with a situation sort of like trying to produce a “Rocky” movie without Sylvester Stallone and the character of Rocky Balboa.
Cue the Mexican national team.
“The World Cup is still the greatest sporting event on earth,” Fox Sports President Eric Shanks told Sports Illustrated earlier this month.“But clearly for us, it’s a different tournament if the U.S. isn’t in it.”
It’s not like Americans won’t watch some World Cup matches if the United States is not involved. The 2014 final between Argentina and Germany was the the third most-watched soccer game in American TV history, with 17.3 million viewers.
If you add the viewership for the Spanish-language telecast on Univision, that number jumps to 26.5 million. And Fox is going to be trying to win over as many of those 9.2 million viewers as possible … by focusing on Mexico.
You can’t build a wall high enough to keep that from happening. And yes, there’s a certain irony in the fact that we’re talking about Fox’s sports channels and the broadcast network — sister channels to Trump’s favorite TV outlet, Fox News.
But this is all about money. And Fox will be hoping to at least break even on its investment, which will exceed half a billion dollars by the time production costs are figured in.