AFN scores World Cup rights
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — With a little more than an hour to spare, the American Forces Network on Thursday secured the rights to air the World Cup.
"GOOOOOAAAAAALLLLL," AFN spokesman George Smith wrote in an email to Stars and Stripes at 8:51 p.m. Central European Time – an hour and nine minutes before the kickoff of the tournament's first match. "AFN has received rights to air the World Cup from ESPN. Go to myafn.net for air times and dates. And check out our Facebook page: AFN, American Forces Network, where we will post airdates and times for the games on AFN|sports."
Soccer fans sprayed the military broadcaster's Facebook page with questions Thursday, to which the broadcaster replied that it was waiting on broadcast rights holders in various countries and FIFA to give AFN the permission to air the tournament.
The last-minute approval echoed 2010, when the network also secured the rights to broadcast the games at the last moment. In 2006, AFN didn't get the rights to air the games until they were well underway, and only after media mogul Rupert Murdoch wrote a huge check to cover the cost of airing the games.
AFN typically doesn't pay for sports programming, including the Olympics, and had managed in 2010 to secure rights to the World Cup without paying for them. Though it ran down to the wire, the network was able to pull off the same feat again.
The first game of the tournament, Brazil versus Croatia, kicks off at 5 p.m. in Sao Paolo, Brazil – 10 p.m. in Central Europe and 12:30 in Afghanistan.