October 11, 2017 Last Updated 8:55 am

Fox Sports left holding the bag as US Men’s National Team lays egg in Trinidad; Time Inc. looks to cut costs by slashing print runs

Morning Brief: US press corps loses its mind over Harvey Weinstein, proving gain how easy it is to distract the media with sex and scandal, as well as the president’s tweets

The US Men’s National Team, or USMNT, did something last night that few thought possible: it failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia in 2018. Needing only a tie against the last place team Trinidad & Tobago, it lost 2-1. When both Panama and Honduras won their matches, it dropped the US into fifth place, and out of the world’s most popular tournament for the first time since 1986.

Of course, this isn’t just a sports story, it is also a media story.

Fox Sports won the rights to broadcast the 2018 and 2022 World Cup in English (Telemundo in Spanish), paying around $400-425 million, depending on the report.

“We are truly honored that FIFA has elected to extend Fox Sports’ rights to the portfolio of FIFA events including the FIFA World Cup and FIFA Women’s World Cup through 2026,” a Fox Sports spokesperson said in early 2015. “These events are some of the world’s most important sports competitions, and it is our privilege to be entrusted with these rights in the United States. We’re looking forward to the kickoff of FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 in June with great anticipation.”

Soccer lags far behind other team sports in the US when it comes to TV viewership. But the World Cup is the one time when things change, at least for the first two weeks of the tournament, during what is known as the group stage, where each team that has qualified is guaranteed to play at least three games. A USMNT’s group stage match against Portugal, which it won, attracted nearly 25 million viewers, a sign that Americans will watch soccer… at least as long as the US team is playing.

Now, thanks to last night’s loss, the US won’t be playing, and Fox Sports is left holding the bag. To make matters worse, FIFA, the governing body for world soccer, awarded Fox Sports the rights to the 2026 tournament in a no-bid process that had ESPN up in arms. Now, they might think themselves lucky. Unless in the unlikely event that US Soccer cleans house and gets serious about building up soccer in the US (won’t happen, it’s a club).

Business Insider, Tyler Lauletta:

Fox paid $200 million to outbid ESPN for the 2018 World Cup TV rights and now it looks like a disaster

In order to win a bidding war with ESPN, Fox agreed to pay $400 million for the English-broadcast rights to the World Cup in 2018 and 2022. With the Americans eliminated from 2018 contention, chances are those broadcasts are significantly less valuable than previously imagined.

In year’s past, Fox would’ve gotten the chance to broadcast three group stage games for the U.S. side, as well as the possibility of an extra game or two or more should the Americans make a run into the knockout round. Instead, Fox will have to dig a bit deeper to find compelling storylines for American fans to root for in the biggest tournament in the world…

…And if Fox’s initial investment is to be worth anywhere near what it had intially anticipated, it better hope that the USMNT finds away to figure itself out ahead of 2022.

Yahoo Sports, Leander Schaerlaeckens:

Failures on every level at U.S. Soccer are to blame for World Cup qualifying debacle

For years, the conversation had been about when the Americans would finally compete for the title at the World Cup. Not about when they would miss one altogether. But here we are.

Time for deep introspection; an honest assessment of a failure that was unexpected and yet entirely avoidable. Tuesday night, which instantly became infamous, was a final nail in the coffin that the U.S. didn’t even realize it was laying in, but had also fashioned with its own hands.

The loss was the culmination of a disastrous qualifying campaign in which the Americans didn’t reach the final round with much comfort and then proceeded to win just three games out of 10 and switch managers mid-cycle for the first time in three decades. For as many awful displays as the U.S. gave, perhaps the remarkable thing is that it only fell a single goal short of reaching Russia – an equalizer against T&T would have ensured a direct berth and even avoided a playoff.

ESPN: Fox, Nike among biggest losers after U.S. fails to reach World Cup

Yesterday was not a good day for American journalism.

The saga of serial sexual harasser Harvey Weinstein completely drowned out all other news. While the Weinstein story is no doubt a big news story, its ability to combine celebrity and sex is what makes it the only real story for many US journalists. It is, in its way, the equivalent of Fleet Street mentality, where the tabloids rule.

So, what else was going on that deserved attention? A lot:

  • NBC News: Trump Wanted Tenfold Increase in Nuclear Arsenal, Surprising Military
  • BBC: Brexit: UK to wait until ‘last moment’ to spend on ‘no deal’ plan
  • Reuters: Spain takes step toward direct rule over Catalonia’s independence move
  • The New York Times: How Israel Caught Russian Hackers Scouring the World for U.S. Secrets

In short, Harvey Weinstein is a slug. But he doesn’t deserve the vast majority of the US press corps dropping everything to talk about him. Again, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a big story, but I see no reason why 100 percent of media coverage needs to be about the guy.

The real story in all this, and one making the rounds today is about NBC News, and how it spiked Ronan Farrow’s story, which he then took to The New Yorker. Also, why did the NYT spike its own story years ago, only to go to press with a new one once it knew The New Yorker would be posted Farrow’s story?

Time Inc. announced recently that it would be selling off its UK portfolio, as well as several well-known magazine titles in the US. The sales are really about getting some cash in order to pay off debt as well as recurring losses. But, in the meantime, it has been cutting costs by laying off staff.

Now, The Wall Street Journal reports it will slash the circulation of its most iconic magazine title by a third.

The Wall Street Journal, Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg:

For Time Inc.’s Magazines, Fewer Copies Is the Way Forward

The company gradually will reduce the weekly circulation of its flagship Time magazine by one-third to 2 million copies. That move is partly a recognition that it isn’t worth it to keep printing as many promotional copies. It also is aimed at focusing on a core audience considered more valuable to advertisers.

Time Inc. also is reducing the print frequency of seven titles, including Sports Illustrated, Entertainment Weekly and Fortune. The move is based, in part, on its research showing that consumers have less time for leaning back with magazines.

The circulation of People en Español also will be reduced.

“From an advertising perspective, clearly there are some headwinds in print,” said Brad Elders, Time Inc.’s chief revenue officer. “What we’re trying to do is reimagine the way we produce these products in a long-term, sustainable way.”

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