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FOX Sports exec discusses World Cup 4K, MVPD strategy

With the U.S. team having failed to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, 21st Century Fox Inc.'s FOX Sports is shifting its strategy to focus on soccer's other big teams.

David Neal, FIFA World Cup executive producer and vice president of production at FOX Sports, said that whereas the U.S. side would have drawn much of the attention during the group stage had it qualified, "we now have 32 teams to tell stories about and market."

During recent plenary sessions in Russia, Neal said FIFA and global broadcaster Host Broadcast Services emphasized to Fox that it has plenty of resources to draw from as it builds feature segments to tell stories about the teams and players, to "make their global brands bigger in the U.S." Host Broadcast Services will provide match coverage with 37 cameras from each of the 12 venues.

Speaking at the recent 2017 Sports Video Group Summit in New York, Neal told the crowd that FOX Sports will air all 64 matches as part of a World Cup presentation lasting more than 300 hours. Neal said the final game plan is still being developed, but FOX (US)'s broadcast will televise more than half the matches.

Host Broadcast Services also will shoot the matches in 4K ultra-high definition and high-dynamic range. While local FOX stations cannot support those signals, Neal said a number of multichannel video programming distributors have inquired about transmitting those feeds for matches appearing on FOX Sports 1 (US) and FOX Sports 2 (US).

Kevin Callahan, vice president of field operations and engineering for FOX Sports, further noted that planning for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup from France started a year ago, with all of its equipment orders in place.

"When the World Cup is over on July 15 and we all come back from vacation, we’ll start working on the Women’s World Cup around Aug. 1," Callahan said.

That tournament figures to showcase the U.S. as the defending World Cup champions after the women's team raised the trophy for the first time in 16 years during the 2015 FIFA competition in Canada. Acknowledging that it would be "nice" to have the U.S. enter the tournament as one of the favorites, Neal reminded the audience that the team still has to qualify and "we’re not taking anything for granted."