Fox executive producer David Neal said his network wouldn’t be looking for the work of “Real Sports” or “E:60,” newsmagazine-style shows known for tackling thorny issues outside of the mainstream. field. “We really believe viewers come to us at Fox Sports for the World Cup to see the World Cup,” he said.
Telemundo Deportes President Ray Warren reacted differently. He said the network’s news division and that of sister network NBC would cover events in Qatar, adding that on the sports side, “I think we need to talk about the legacy we’re leaving. By the time the tournament is over, we’ll have [won’t have been] ignoring the geopolitical issues that may arise.”
A spokeswoman for Comcast-owned Telemundo later said the network would follow NBC Sports’ approach to this year’s Winter Olympics in China; hosts discussed the alleged Uyghur genocide during coverage of the opening ceremony. The network expects to raise the human rights situation in Qatar as part of the opening day on Sunday and during the tournament if necessary.
The differing strategies of the two broadcasters responsible for bringing the World Cup to American audiences will be scrutinized in the coming month as Western journalists, fans and football players arrive in Qatar, a theocratic monarchy strictly governed by Islamic law. and use. The US team unveiled a new rainbow crest that will be displayed at its hotel in response to laws banning homosexuality in Qatar. The Australian team released a video in support of the LGBTQ+ community and workers’ rights.
Top British diplomat calls on LGBT World Cup fans to be ‘respectful’ in Qatar
For Fox, the strategy is identical to the way it handled the World Cup in Russia four years ago. But there’s another dynamic at play in Qatar: Qatar Airways, the state-owned airline, will serve as a major sponsor of the network’s coverage, meaning that Fox’s production in Qatar will essentially be guaranteed by the Qatari government.
In June, Neal told Sports Business Journal that Fox will send a “small army” of 150 staffers and announcers to Qatar and that Fox will be the first U.S. network to have announcers in stadiums for all World Cup games, in part because the venues are so close together.
But according to three people familiar with Fox’s plans, the network initially planned to use mostly remote production and send a minimal contingent of staff and talent to Qatar. The strategy only changed after the deal with Qatar Airways was completed; that deal included free flights to Qatar, the people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to reveal private conversations.
The relationship between the airline and the network dates back to last year, when Qatar Airways announced a partnership with Concacaf and was the title sponsor for Fox’s Gold Cup coverage. including signage on the studio set.
Telemundo’s spokeswoman said Qatar Airways is not a sponsor of the coverage.
The Qataris hope to use the World Cup to showcase their country to a wider global audience. An important part of that is having US broadcasters in the country, said two of the people who knew about the deal. They described Fox executives celebrating the deal because the network can deliver a more robust broadcast to viewers, but not have to pay for it.
Fox has unveiled an expansive studio on Doha’s waterfront with four stages and more than 20 LED screens.
In a statement, Fox said: “Qatar Airways is a major sponsor of FIFA World Cup 2022 and will have a significant presence in our full coverage of the tournament. They, along with our portfolio of blue-chip sponsors, give us the opportunity to present unparalleled coverage of what is arguably one of the greatest World Cups ever, with the highly anticipated return of the US Men’s National Team.”
When asked if Qatar Airways’ sponsorship had any influence on the coverage, a Fox spokesman replied, “Absolutely not.”
After this story was published, a Fox spokeswoman sent an additional statement to the Post, denying that the network’s deal with Qatar Airways included flights.
Today’s worldview: the political debate surrounding the World Cup in Qatar
The change to the schedule from the usual summer World Cup was made to deal with the extreme heat in Qatar and would be a headache for any US broadcaster. Rather than sharing the summer with baseball alone, this tournament will compete for viewership with the NFL and college football. Fox reportedly paid more than $400 million for the four men’s and women’s World Cups between 2015 and 2023. Telemundo reportedly pays about $600 million.
How the tournament is broadcast – and how the Qataris react to that coverage – will be closely monitored. In an 11 a.m. decision, Qatar reversed course and banned the sale of alcohol in stadiums. It was a leading story for many news outlets Friday morning and was featured in the latest news section of Telemundo Deportes’ website, but not on Fox Sports. Before the tournament started, a Danish cameraman this week clashed with Qatari officials who threatened to smash his camera for filming a live report in a public place.
The Athletic published a piece this week by football editor Alex Kay-Jelski describing his mixed feelings, as a gay man and sports journalist, about covering the tournament.
“Some [reporters] will write about great games and goals, others will tell stories about lineups or exits,” he wrote. “But many will also focus on what is happening off the field, on the fact that some LGBT+ fans have to stay in safe houses, on the families of the workers who died building the stadiums, on the absurd politics that brought the tournament to Qatar, about the realities of the lives of women who live there, and will continue to do so once the circus has packed up and left.”
Qatar Airways has been a visible brand in international football for several years now. It was the front jersey sponsor of Spanish powerhouse Barcelona from 2013 to 2017 before the club terminated the deal over “social issues”. Today, Qatar Airways is a shirt sponsor for Germany’s Bayern Munich, although club members have pressured directors not to renew the deal when it expires in 2023.
Speaking at the team’s annual general meeting last month, Oliver Kahn, the team’s CEO, said: “There has been progress in Qatar on labor rights and human rights. No one suggested that Qatar is a country that meets European standards. But if you want to make a change and start something, you have to meet people, talk to them and exchange ideas instead of excluding them.”
Steven Goff contributed to this report.