What English Premier League TV Rights Will Say About State of U.S. Market – TVRev - Techy Hunters

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Wednesday, November 10, 2021

What English Premier League TV Rights Will Say About State of U.S. Market – TVRev

The English Premier League is about to become even richer off its new U.S. TV rights deal, which will start next season (begins in August 2022). While we don’t know who the deal will be with or the exact amount, a recent London Times report indicates a 50% jump in value to six years and between $1.4 and $1.5 billion. Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand indicates it’s likely that the new EPL deal is split between two entities, to increase the value of the deal. Expected bidders include current partner NBC, plus ESPN, FOX and CBS.

From a financial standpoint, the 50% increase in value is reflective of the still-climbing premium on live sports rights and the fact that a foreign league (even in an English-speaking country) can fetch such a total is pretty miraculous considering how insular U.S. sports consumption typically is. If the number comes in at the lower end of the range above, the Premier League would be making more than the Big 12 currently does ($200 million per year) and at the high end, more than the ACC ($240 million). Considering the EPL has its own lucrative domestic deal in the U.K. plus international rights deals around the world, the biggest takeaway here, perhaps, is just how strong the Premier League brand is.

While the U.S. conversation around keeping linear TV afloat focuses on the Big Four (really, Big Three, with the NFL, NBA and MLB miles ahead) sports leagues and college conferences, the Premier League earning this much shows that soccer — both international and domestic — is a viable area for investment and growth for U.S. media companies that want to secure live audiences.

NBC’s been working with the Premier League for years, and both ESPN and FOX have held World Cup rights. But we’ve also seen ViacomCBS bet on international soccer to grow streaming service Paramount+. Viacom has deals with the UEFA Champions League, Italian Serie A, Scottish football, Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) and more to stake its claim as the go-to hub for the sport on a global scale. ESPN+ has Bundesliga (Germany) and LaLiga (Spain) rights, sure. But ViacomCBS — and specifically Paramount+ — is clearly betting heavily on soccer more than any other media company in the U.S.

So would ViacomCBS try to add Premier League games to that growing collection? With the coming departure of SEC football from CBS, there’s potential budget to spare and programming space as well on Saturdays (the main day most EPL matches take place).

For NBC, there’s also a clear desire to keep the league around, especially since it lost the NHL to a combined Turner/ESPN deal that started last month. But the EPL was also pretty blindsided by the decision to shutter NBC Sports Network (effective Dec. 31, 2021), which served as its defacto home in the States. Matches have started moving to USA Network and Peacock, but there’s likely to be a little distrust still lingering for the Premier League around NBC making it a priority in its programming.

For FOX, there’s always a desire to steal something from a rival network, and getting the Premier League to pair with its World Cup and shared MLS coverage would be a boon to Fox Sports 1, in particular. There’s also a potential for more programming time available if FOX decides to move on from the reformed Big 12 when that deal’s up in 2025.

At ESPN, recent moves have showed a desire to consolidate expertise in certain sports, while also growing the influence of ESPN+ through lesser rights (global and North American hockey rights being one of those plays). Any desire for ESPN to bid on the Premier League would mean a lot of streaming and a lot of fall competition for air time with college football on Saturdays (and NFL-related studio shows on Sundays). The Premier League can’t be opposed to streaming at this point. However, ESPN’s bid would likely feature it more heavily than anyone else’s. That could potentially hurt their chances unless the network is far and away the top bidder.

While the Premier League isn’t a kingmaker in U.S. sports rights, its importance is clearly growing. We’ll know very soon how the league’s substantial rights impact the market, and U.S. networks’ various streaming growth strategies, in particular.



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