Premier League and La Liga US TV Rights Up For Bidding In 2012

In the past few years, FOX Soccer has been accumulating an ever-growing number of TV rights deals to bring most of the best soccer leagues in the world to a US audience. FOX Sports winning the bids to broadcast the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup tournaments was a crowning achievement. But it’s quite possible that FOX may not be done quite yet.

This spring, the bidding for the TV and Internet rights to La Liga for 2012-13 and beyond will be finalized. GolTV currently owns the rights and sub-licenses some of the games to ESPN, but the hot property of Barcelona and Real Madrid games could entice both FOX Soccer and ESPN to get into a bidding war for the much-coveted rights. Then again, both parties may want GolTV to do the heavy-lifting and come in afterwards to scoop up a sub-licensing deal to show select games on its network.

Whether FOX Soccer gets the rights to La Liga or not, the network has built an impressive roster of soccer leagues and tournaments for viewers to watch across FOX Soccer, FOX Soccer Plus and FOX Soccer 2Go. They include the English Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup, League Cup, Championship, Serie A, Ligue 1, Scottish Premier League, FA Cup, CONCACAF Champions League, England national team, A-League and, beginning next season, Europa League.

When you think about it, there isn’t much that FOX doesn’t have that would be worth adding. Two exceptions are that ESPN has the US rights to Euro 2012 and Euro 2016. GolTV, meanwhile, has the rights to the Bundesliga, where — again — they sublicense some of the games to ESPN. Due to kick-off times, the Bundesliga would clash with Premier League games on FOX Soccer, so I don’t see a good fit there unless the network wanted to broadcast games on FOX Soccer 2Go. The European Championships would be a great coup — but it’s important that FOX doesn’t bite off more than it can chew, particularly with all of the planning that’s needed to get everything ready for World Cup 2018.

And don’t forget that the US TV and Internet rights for the Premier League for seasons 2013-16 will go up for bidding this year with FOX Soccer and ESPN surely very interested in the crown jewel of club soccer TV coverage.

While FOX has been busy gobbling up new TV rights deal including the acquisition this week of the Scottish Premier League, ESPN has been eerily quiet. While soccer continues to be an important asset for ESPN, it’s not clear yet how competitive the network wants to be in bidding for high-profile rights. The network certainly has the cash available, as does FOX — thanks to its parent company. But how much of a priority is soccer to ESPN when the network generates vast sums of revenue from other far more lucrative sports? FOX Soccer, meanwhile, can concentrate on soccer alone. And continuing to build an empire in the lead-up to 2018.

FOX already has a near monopoly on the best soccer coverage in the United States. What’s your opinion regarding this? Should FOX Soccer go in strong to try to win La Liga rights? If that happens, does GolTV go out of business by losing its flagship programming? Or is time for ESPN to get serious about bidding on soccer rights for US viewers? What would a near-monopoly by FOX look like in the United States (i.e. do you think that FOX Soccer may start to change the way that soccer is broadcast across its networks in the run-up to World Cup 2018)? Share your opinions in the comments section below.

61 thoughts on “Premier League and La Liga US TV Rights Up For Bidding In 2012”

  1. The problem I see with ESPN bidding on EPL or La Liga rights is that they will probably use ESPN Deportes and for most of the matches especially with La Liga matches being on ESPN Deportes because come on only people who speak Spanish would want to see a Spanish league. With only available to people with ISP’s that have deals with ESPN and ESPN Deports only part of the Spanish package on cable and satellite will hinder viewing.

      1. With some of the off the wall comments you read on blog sites sarcasm often escapes people. :-)

        I think Joey Barton’s the best!

  2. Well, I’ll say it again. ESPN will not, under any circumstances, enter into bidding for the TV rights to the Premier League. As a total package it just not fit their scheduling or financial needs, particularly during NCAA football season. They have shown no interest, that I know of, other than cherry picking games/times that suit them from Fox—which, by the way, is financially beneficial to Fox as well. Symbiosis.

    Like it or not, I think it’s just gong to be status quo……which is fine.

    1. It’s the same for ESPN UK. They’ve stated that should Al Jazeera join the bidding for majority Premier League rights, going against Sky, then they won’t be entering into a bidding war and will instead step aside. News Corp through its various offshoots – Sky, Fox etc – are in very good standing with the Premier League to retain their packages.

  3. If I could get Comcast to put Fox Soccer in HD in DC I would be happy with FSC winning all the rights. ESPN does a great job with their presentation but unlike FSC they feel it mandatory to tell you the scores of every other match if possible.

    I’d take watching on mute if ESPN remains the only HD option for soccer though.

  4. No chance that NBC puts in a bid? They obviously want to start showing soccer as their unsuccessful bid for the World Cup and their successful bid for the MLS shows. NBC sports doesn’t currently show much that would get in the way of the EPL schedule wise. Plus, they have NBC to show the big games. Since NBC only has Sunday night football, they could actually show games at any time Sunday morning and not interfere with anything but infomercials.

    1. An interesting thought. I had already forgotten about the newly christened NBC Sports Network….nee Versus. Don’t know what their coverage is nationwide or whether NBC would be willing to gamble putting up the amount of cash it would take to win the bid.

        1. Yes, but NBC Sports only got a viewing audience of 82,000 for their opening MLS game. Most people, even soccer fans, don’t realize that NBC Sports even exists.

          The Gaffer

          1. I can just say I’m a massive Prem fan with interest in the Bundesliga and La Liga as well. I get Fox Soccer (but not in HD, which is an utter joke.) but would MUCH rather watch these games on NBC Sports. It’s in HD, is available in many more homes, etc.

            You can’t judge them on an MLS game, which I simply am not interested in. They’ve had amazing ratings growth in hockey because they really “bought in” and show a ton of games. I have no reason to believe the same thing couldn’t happen with soccer.

          2. 82000 is still more than Fox Soccer was drawing for average games. I think the low numbers tend to have more to do with the MLS than with the network. I watch very few MLS games even though I follow the league. I watch the Seattle games that I don’t go to, and that’s about it. I think most MLS fans are pretty much the same. The only league where I watch games of teams I don’t support is the EPL.

            1. NBC Sports Network is in almost double the number of homes that FOX Soccer is in, so I should hope that NBC would achieve higher viewing numbers than FOX. Having said that, the numbers from FOX Soccer and NBC Sports for MLS have been terrible. It’s more of a sign of the mistakes that MLS is making in marketing their league than anything, but that’s a topic for our sister site MLS Talk.

              The Gaffer

  5. @CTBlues: Although I am part Spanish, I do not speak it well, and I love to watch Barcelona play. Maybe I am in the minority.

    I hope GolTv keeps La Liga rights. First, they have a much better HD picture than both ESPN and FOX. Second, I love the commentators….. Phil Schoen and Ray Hudson.

    The one thing I do not get is why Gol sub-licenses most of Barcelona’s home games to ESPN this year… I would think they would give up away games but not home games.

      1. My bad, didn’t pick up on the sarcasm there. I can be quite sarcastic myself, so shame on me for not catching that.

  6. Fox Soccer should go after La Liga and sublicense some games to ESPN. That way, we don’t have to hear Ray Hudson’s mouth anymore. WIN-WIN!

    1. +1 on Ray Hudson!!! He is the only reason I refuse to watch GolTV!! I can’t even watch with the sound muted because I still imagine his voice reciting from the Thesaurus as a square pass is made.

      1. Don’t forget his STUPID vampire references. “Messi sucks the blood from the neck of that Levante defender and drinks it down!” Moron.

        1. Ray Hudson rocks! No sarcasm there. He makes me laugh at his silly comments and nicknames for players (Avatar eyes, chameleon eyes, etc lol). Watch some great tiki-taka futbol and have a few laughs.

          Guess hes not for everyone.

  7. I think overall top to bottom, La Liga is not the same as the EPL. The intrigue outside of Real and Barcelona is very slim. Fox Soccer’s identity is the Premier League and if that is taken away, American viewers will flock to the network that has those games.

    There are people at ESPN who enjoy football which is why they have the rights for the Euro’s where no American connections can be made at all. On a week to week basis there are other avenues of programming ESPN can provide at a cheaper price but the bulk of the viewers for the EPL are men which is the core audience for ESPN. If one network can accommodate moving around programming for something they believe it’s ESPN.

  8. People are forgetting that Univision Deportes may also be part of the bidding for La Liga rights. They just started their sports network and they need programming to fill. So I would not be surprised if they somehow won the rights.

  9. Are any one you guys having trouble going onto the Bigsoccer forums? I keep trying on going on them to check the updates about the tv rights from the members who are in the “know” but my browser stays loading on it. i waited 10 minutes for it to load multiple times yesterday and nothing. I can visit every other website easily but Bigsoccer forums I can’t even access. The trouble started yesterday and still continues today. It was ok on Sunday when I was on the website.

    1. What are you doing on BigSoccer looking for news about TV rights? EPL Talk is the place to be 😉

      The Gaffer

    2. I just checked and had no trouble. (although, normally I would never go there for TV rights news……unless I wanted to see what a few seemingly well placed sources had to say) 😉

  10. ESPN’s coverage of the actual matches are far superior to FSC’s. Fox spends all the money on the rights and doesnt use any of their money to produce the product. I think Fox will win the rights again and nothing will change with the subpar coverage. Also, WTF is up with using the US commentators on Serie A games? It is horrible and it makes it very diffcult to watch. Chrisitan Miles’ voice is like a knife in the ear

  11. Hey Gaffer:

    Univision has been the odds-on favorite to take La Liga away from GOLTV ever since last April.


    Univision is getting ready to launch Univision Deportes and Univision Deportes Dos (which will be exclusive to DISH Network through December 2012.)

    Univision wants to charge $1/subscriber/month for Univision Deportes, and Univision wants to put Univision Deportes in English-language expanded basic pay TV packages (where Galavision is currently placed to reach 70 million households.)

    Compare what Univision Deportes and GOLTV will earn in subscribe fees:

    Univision Deportes – 70 million subscribers x $1/month/sub x 12 months/year = $840 million

    GOLTV – 12 million subs x $0.20/month/sub x 12 months/year = $28.8 million

    And you can decide for yourself which company is the favorite to take the U.S. rights to La Liga.

      1. Univision Deportes will be HD from launch day on DISH Network. Expect other deals to be signed by late July/early August.

          1. I don’t think English TV rights shouldn’t be sold to a Spanish only network unless they give an option for English.

    1. Man o Man, I hope GolTv holds onto the rights. To have to listen to commentators in spanish would not be cool. And the DISH things has me nervous as well since I am on DirecTv.

  12. One club soccer team will earn more from U.S. TV rights than all the EPL, La Liga, and Serie A clubs combined.

    Chivas de Guadalajara

    Telemundo has the rights to 17 Chivas Guadalajara regular season home games (plus playoff games) each year through 2013. Telemundo reportedly is paying $50 million/year for those rights.

    If Telemundo (now controlled by Comcast) wants to retain those rights for 2014 and beyond, the bidding will likely start at $100 million/year.

    I would not be surprised if Univision were to bid $150 million/year to $200 million/year to test whether Telemundo (Comcast) were willing to match with its last right of refusal.

  13. A few thoughts…

    I hope Fox soccer keeps the EPL, ESPN US doesn’t care enough and should stick to exploiting U.S college athlete’s. As for La Liga, outside of watching El Classico and the Madrid derby it’s not compelling football.

    Todays line up of football on Fox soccer (Recently in HD in the SF bay Area) is great, UEFA and CONCACAF champions league…All day today!..Great!!

    I like Serie A on Fox Soccer, but again the Serie A shows and coverage on Fox (as with the EPL) still doesn’t do it justice, in fact, the Channel 4 “football itallia” programming was better and that was a long time ago!

    I am still holding out hope for an “EPL Network”, they have at least 10 times the audience of the NFL globally. The NFL have done a great job with their channel while allowing other networks to have the chunk of the games, and that season is only 20 weeks long. EPL network would allow the EPL members to control more effectively the brand and experience of the EPL. Proper club coverage and access to training, players, real honest to god analysis.

    Also, it’s been ample time for the newly acquired from ESPN Fox soccer anchor to get his S@#t together, but yet again, he is all over the place, am I the only one who thinks he is a train wreck?

    As a side, I was pleasantly surprised when I watched the Portland Timbers vs Phillidelphia MLS game, those Timbers fans in particular the “Timbers Army” were fantastic! it was great to see that much passion (even if the words weren’t clear the original songs they sung were entertaining especially to the elvis melody. It looked like a Serie A game (but actually sold out) with the flares and so on. Plus the football (from Portland anyways) was good to boot! Lalas is still a peanut, the main host at one point telling him to sshh so Casy Keller can give his thoughts LOL.

  14. The Premier League Network was launched in August 2010 and is produced by Premier League Productions in conjunction with IMG Sports Media.

    Abu Dhabi Media Company currrently relays the Premier League Network around the clock 24/7 on AD Sports 5 HD in the Middle East and Northern Africa.

    (FOX does not want to pay the Premier League for content from the Premier League Network, preferring to produce its own studio shows from Los Angeles.)

    The lead presenter on the Premier League Network is former ESPN STAR Sports (Asia) football presenter John Dykes, who returned to the UK from his stint in Singapore with ESPN STAR Sports.

    Some of you may remember former Sky Sports News (UK) and ESPN SportsCenter (Africa) presenter Georgie Bingham. Bingham also moved to the Premier League Network when ESPN cancelled SportsCenter (Africa) a few years ago.

    (ESPN relaunched SportsCenter EMEA last year, but with Korean-American Michael Kim as presenter. Kim was moved over from ESPNEWS U.S.)

  15. It strikes me as a difficult proposition to sell entire leagues to American soccer audiences. Most fans here are interested in seeing the top teams and the top players, whether they are in England, Spain, Germany, Italy, or even France and Holland. I will almost always watch Bayern Munich vs. a Bundisliga lightweight and even Ajax vs. a Dutch lightweight over Getafe vs. Levante or Blackburn vs. Bolton Wanderers.

    Question: I thought teams in England are not franchises, but rather are autonomous entities who agree to be part of the FA. Couldn’t the big teams like Manchester United or Chelsea strike their own deals with ESPN for US television rights or anywhere else for that matter, like Notre Dame college football has done with NBC?

    1. The English Premier League clubs decided to sell their media rights collectively. By doing so, the Premier League still has some resemblance of a competition and Premier League clubs on average are able to earn more from media rights than other clubs in Europe.

      La Liga has turned into a glorified exhibition because Barcelona and Real Madrid account for 60% of the media rights fees received by Spanish clubs. In addition, both Barcelona and Real Madrid have access to bank loans (and government bailout assistance in the case of Real Madrid) that the other clubs don’t have. Of the 380 La Liga matches, neutrals only have a reason to watch 2.

      The Mexicans also have an unbalanced system with each club selling media rights to its home games individually. As a result, Chivas and Club America earn much more than the rest (particularly Chivas because of their deal in the U.S. with Telemundo/Comcast.) But because neither Chivas nor Club America are at the top of the global food chain, and because Mexican seasons are short (2 seasons each year, lasting only 5 months each including playoffs), neither Chivas nor Club America are able to dominate. Chivas in particular have struggled in 2012.

    2. Re your question: I don’t think it is possible. The Prem is a corporation, of which they are members. Any kind of attempt to strike their own deals/break away would result in either massive fines or unending legal entanglements. English readers could better enlighten us.

  16. I don’t know if ESPN will make any sort of concerted effort for either league this since they lost the World Cup…ESPN has a tendency to subtly ignore sports it doesn’t have the rights too (people complain all the time that SportsCenter doesn’t do a lot of hockey highlights since they don’t have the NHL rights).

    NBC Sports is an interesting possibility, considering their MLS deal- I could see them make a serious offer for at least a subleasing deal with someone…Most of their weekend morning schedule is outdoor shows (which they want to de-emphasize, even thoug right now it’s some of their highest rated programming)…If EPL wants as many games shown live in the US on TV as possible, I could even see a FOX/NBC combo package being worked out if both sides were willing….

    1. Don’t see that happening.

      FOX slammed the door on Comcast when it blew Comcast out of the water for the U.S. English-language rights to the World Cups in 2018 and 2022. (Comcast wanted the rights in both languages, but ended up getting only the rights in Spanish.)

      Comcast needs to hold onto its cash to bid on a “sure thing” to build up NBC Sports Network. The next “sure thing” is the BIG EAST Conference football/basketball package. Comcast will be up against Turner Sports (which needs additional sports events for truTV besides one week of College Basketball) and incumbent ESPN, Inc.

      (ESPN, Inc. ganged up with NewsCorp/FOX to outbid Comcast for the PAC 12 Conference football/basketball package.)

          1. And that, my friends, is the bottom line on the entire conversation.

            These corporations are not our friends. They are not in the business of bringing us the best coverage ever. They are in the business of making the most money possible. That is not a complaint…..just a fact of life.

      1. I’d say the next sure thing is more likely the MLB contracts which are coming up in 2013, but that’s neither here nor there…

        1. Turner Sports will need to hold onto baseball for TBS, which has the Sunday afternoon package, the entire first round of the playoffs, and one league championship series.

          Despite the lousy demographics, ESPN, inc. will need to hold onto baseball in order to have live event programming on ESPN on Sunday nights and Monday nights (Wednesday nights may have to go due to cost.)

          FOX, with its lousy prime time lineup (nothing sells on FOX besides Sunday night cartoons and signing talent shows), needs to keep the World Series.

          MLB Network is keeping a Thursday night package in house.

  17. Does FS and FS+ even have the time available to show these games live? Only so many hours in the morning. Setanta used to have the Russian Premier League which worked well because it was aired before the EPL started their games.

    1. Sportel Rio ends today, which is where many of the deals are made behind the scenes. Discussions may continue when they return to the US, and lawyers often get involved, so it could be weeks before we hear anything.

      The Gaffer

  18. I think ESPN and NBC could split things up like this for the EPL (Forgive me for being lengthy):

    -ESPN2 Saturday:
    7:30AM &10AM matches leading into your noon College Football Kick-off
    -NBC Sports shows the 12:30 kickoff that leads into your college football pregame at 2:30 followed big a triple header of Ivy League, Mtn. West & PAC-12 football (Works out perfect due to the zime zones)
    -ESPN2 Sunday:
    NBC Sports shows the 11AM kickoff that could be followed by hockey.

  19. I’d simply like to have access to all games. If I want to watch every Arsenal game in high def this day in age I should be able to do so, and I’d like to see league packages offered the same way they are for NFL, NHL, NBA & MLB. I’d like to know if this is anywhere close to becoming a reality?

    1. Hi Scott, we’re nowhere near that unfortunately. There are so many teams, so many games and only so many channels. Internet is a key component to watching all of the Premier League games. It may not be HD, but the quality is still very decent.

      The Gaffer

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