Race For US Media Rights to Premier League Is Heating Up

Don’t be alarmed, but could this be the final season of the Premier League televised on FOX Soccer in the United States?

In early October, we’ll discover who’ll win the US media rights to the English Premier League for seasons 2013-16. If FOX Soccer loses the rights to beIN SPORT, the consequences could be enormous — even potentially signaling the end of FOX Soccer, the channel. After all, if FOX Soccer loses the Premier League TV rights for next season, what does FOX Soccer have left other than Champions League, the Women’s World Cup (in 2015), the FIFA World Cup (in 2018 and 2022), FA Cup and not much else?

Needless to say, the bidding war for the Premier League on US television could completely change the soccer landscape in the United States forever.

How so? If FOX did lose the EPL rights, or even if they win them, there’s the chance that FOX could shut down FOX Soccer, FUEL and SPEED and replace the channels with their FOX Sports 1, FOX Sports 2 and FOX Sports 3 concept — which would be a mashup of the different sports rights that FOX Sports currently owns. The idea of a sports network to rival ESPN (and now beIN SPORT) is still on the table, and remains a possibility in the near to distant future.

While a trio of FOX Sports channels would be a wise business move for News Corp., it would jeopardize the soccer TV viewing experience in the United States. We’d then be reduced to a giant sports network that only shows limited soccer games (ESPN), a 24/7 soccer network that has lost most of its major rights deals (GolTV), a network with relatively small TV ratings and not much visibility (NBC Sports Network) and a burgeoning soccer network that’s in its infancy but isn’t available to the vast majority of soccer fans nationwide (beIN SPORT).

Our comfortable viewing experience of watching every soccer each week on the most accessible soccer network could be nearing its end, or not.

However, change could be good. If beIN SPORT wins the US media rights to the Premier League for 2013-16, perhaps the quality of coverage will be far superior to FOX Soccer as well as having a robust streaming package to make sure we don’t miss a game? Or if FOX Soccer retains the rights, it’ll be the ideal bridge to help carry soccer fans from next season through to 2016 as FOX gets closer to its coverage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

The point is that no one really knows what the future holds — not FOX Soccer, not beIN SPORT, not the Premier League. There are many open questions that will be answered in the coming weeks. If beIN SPORT wins the US media rights to the 2013-16 Premier League, it will dislodge FOX Soccer as the leading soccer network in the United States. If FOX Soccer wins the rights, how much will it have to pay to beat beIN SPORT, and will News Corp. keep FOX Soccer on air as the dominant go-to soccer network in this country?

No matter what happens, FOX deserves credit for helping make soccer as popular as it is in the United States today. A recent survey revealed that soccer is the second most popular sport among Americans 12-24 years old. And while ESPN enjoyed record-breaking viewing audiences for the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, a large part of the gratitude needs to go to FOX Soccer for turning a cult sport in the United States into a mainstream success. The accessibility of a channel devoted to soccer 24/7 helped grew the sport in this country, taking us out of the dark ages and allowing soccer fans nationwide to share a common interest, while creating plenty of new fans, too.

For the first time in its history, FOX Soccer has a major rival in its midst. ESPN has never been a direct competitor. It’s been more of a friendly neighbor to FOX, while Setanta and GolTV were red-headed stepchildren. But beIN SPORT has incredibly deep pockets, has cherry-picked all of the major soccer rights away from FOX and GolTV during the past 9 months, and looks set on building a TV empire.

I don’t expect FOX to go down without a fight, but this will be a story that any soccer fan in the United States will want to pay close attention to, whether you’re a fan of the Premier League or not.

37 thoughts on “Race For US Media Rights to Premier League Is Heating Up”

  1. If beIn picks this up, my greatest fear would be how they juggle this burgeoning schedule of theirs, and where the Premier League would fit in the “hierarchy of leagues.” I would hate to see games getting bumped to tape delay for either La Liga or the Premier League, but it seems like all but a certainty if beIn wins this.

    I’m pulling for Fox Soccer, for what it’s worth…

    1. As far as I can tell from news and their responses to people on twitter & facebook they’ll be unveiling a webstream system soon where you can watch every game online after logging in with your Comcast / etc. account.

      So if Man U is playing at the same time as Barcelona and Juventus and PSG, one will be on TV and the other 3 will be online.

  2. Don’t worry, beIN brings all of the sports the to the passionate fan…by gutting access and limiting it only to those willing to pay for premium packages. But hey, money equals passion right?

    With the current setup, I think beIN getting the rights would be my worst nightmare come true. They would need to offer a service at least like Fox Soccer does for me to even begin to consider them an adequate replacement or a company that care anything about US soccer fans, the US soccer market, or growing the sport in the US.

  3. Interesting to watch the progression from Fox Sports World Canada to Fox Soccer Channel to Fox Soccer and now maybe to nothing. I have to say the level of commentary in its current incarnation is atrocious and largely unwatchable but the main thing is the matches and we are very lucky to have what we have. I hope Fox Soccer is able to keep the status quo going forward.

  4. Well I’ve said it before – the fact that beIN is associated with Al-Jazeera will pretty much keep it off a huge percentage of US local cable systems. This is silly and stupid but no less true for that.

    So if you are the EPL, you can take the big wad of cash Al-Jazeera is waving at you but pretty much write off the MASSIVE improvement over the past decade in the overall brand’s popularity. In just a few short years we’ve gone from the mainstream media ridiculing soccer to having EPL highlights on ESPN and deadspin and the like. Too many people follow the sport now to ever take things back to the bad old days, but the surest way to kill your growth dead in its tracks is to remove its televised access from 90% of the country.

    People like me would just ditch their cable and get DTV or whatnot. Hell, I pretty much am going to do it anyway so as to be able to watch the other big leagues. But a whole lot of people won’t, and that is a major shame.

    1. Alex, but beIN SPORT just signed a deal with the number 1 US cable company Comcast, so I don’t see the association with Al Jazeera as an issue.

      The Gaffer

  5. Fox Soccer really needs to add something to their schedule, they had absolutely nothing to show on Sunday afternoon other than a repeat of “Goals on Sunday” and tape delay EPL matches

    I don’t care who it goes to honestly, all I ask is for the games, I don’t need a “pundit show”

    1. I think Fox bought 51% of Eredivisie live but I think it starts 13-14. So maybe they will be filling Sundays with Ajax, AZ, and PSV.

    2. I would not mind it if they streamed some more commentators during half time and after games. It’s a little bland. I just catch Sky streams right now.

  6. beIN clearly does not have the ability to broadcast much of any EPL content with the current channel they have. Does the EPL have restrictions regarding awarding the rights to a broadcaster and the number of matches that must be shown?

  7. i hope the EPL powers see what a switch to bein would do to the gains they have made in America. i think it would set football growth back 10 to 20 years.hope fox will be able to keep the EPL if not it will be disastrous.

  8. My main issue with the BPL only available on beIN Sports is having to listen to Ray Hudson & his majesterial, imperious, magnificent super duper hyperbole OMGAAA! I watch a Barfalona or RM game with no sound.

  9. beIN may not even bid for the rights, just like in the UK, so I think we should all relax. Even if they do bid and get the rights, beIN already has DirecTV, Dish and Comcast on board. Bring in TimeWarner and they have massive distribution across the country. The rest (extra channels, etc.) is all details. With beIN (read “Qatar”) money is no object, so the Premier League will definitely follow that trail.

    Bottom line…..I think we’ll be fine. Despite the doomsday scenarios, the sky is not about to fall. We may be witnessing the birth of a soccer network that will make Fox Soccer look like child’s play……..wait…….they already do. (Ahh, I know that was gratuitous. Couldn’t help myself.) 😉

    1. I completely agree. Some people are just fear the worst in the face of change. While Fox Soccer does a good job of showing matches, the channel isn’t perfect. The terrible pundits and presenter make the pre-match and half-time shows unwatchable–not too mention the endless stream of commercials.

  10. In my opinion, if Fox manage to keep the rights I could see things staying as they are but if they do end up without it starting next season then we are more likely to see changes where they turn into some sort of sports channels format to have the place for those other events like Champions League/Europa League.

    There are mixed reaction at moment regarding BeIN, without any online streaming service it’s hard to watch your team live unless you are Real or Barca fan and of course none at all if you don’t have the right cable/sat provider.

    So until this rights battle ends, unless there are major changes with how BeIN handle things, I’ll be rooting for Fox to keep it for next 3 years, as of right now I only have to pay $100(cable bill + FS2Go) a month to get all EPL games on TV and online.
    So if they lose the rights, the cost could be higher and maybe even the possibility of not being able to watch every EPL game live like we can now will be a huge blow.

    1. Paul, because they don’t have the timeslots available. Plus, it’s much cheaper and easier for them to piggyback on FOX Soccer or beiN SPORT and have one of them sublicense a portion of the rights to ESPN.

      The Gaffer

      1. Why couldn’t they rebrand ESPN Classic as ESPNFC and dedicate it to soccer. They have to see that the sport is more popular than ever in the states.
        Maybe it’s just wishful thinking. I think they present matches better than any other network and I’d love to see them take on more.

        1. They could, but they won’t. I don’t believe ESPN is interested enough to make the massive investment it would take to do that. As The Gaffer said, it is easier for them to continue with their present policy. No muss, no fuss.

          Soccer’s popularity has definitely grown, but is nowhere near a critical mass that would make ESPN think about going all in. We get excited if a match picks up a million viewers (and it usually has to involve one or more of the “big” clubs). On the other hand, College Gameday averaged 2 million viewers last year. 2 million…..to watch 3 guys yuck it up about the day’s NCAA match ups. That, with all the available advertising slots, gets ESPN’s attention.

  11. Lets put it that way..so far Bein is S.. (or royal crap) as they do not provide streaming. fox Soccer was providing all the ligue 1 games on streaming and also serie a and the league cup games (ALL of them!!). Silly decision to have EXCLUSIVE rights to show one game or so a week (to only a few people that have the channel now)… smart business move for Bein!!!

  12. One thing I’ll miss about Fox Soccer is they do a pretty good job not telling you the score of the tape delayed games their going to show after the live game their broadcasting at the moment. If beIN sports is anything like ESPN you’ll know every goal as soon as it happens and all of the Saturday replays (if they even have those like FS) will be ruined.

    1. This year they’ve actually added a little drop down box to some of the live FSC matches. It pops up every so often with scores from other matches (underneath the score of the current match). It’s already spoiled a few of the games I wanted to watch later. That’s a bit annoying.

      As for who wins the rights, I’d prefer Fox but maybe BeIN could do a better job. I love being able to record every EPL match (or almost every one), either live or delayed. If BeIN got it, I would want that to continue. They would obviously need another channel (or maybe two). I don’t like Fox’s set up with regards to Fox Soccer Plus. I have DirecTV and am paying $15/month for 3 or 4 games a week, only 1 or 2 of which is in high def. A rather poor value in my mind. If Fox went to a 3 channel sports entity, it might turn out better (as long as they continue to show every match). We may even get to watch 3 live matches at a time.

  13. Its time for the United States to get European football without having to 1.)find a provider that offers a soccer channel & 2.) pay the extra fees to get access to whatever “sports package” the channel is on.

    We have a freakin golf channel that comes standard with most basic cable packages, but we can’t get a channel on basic cable that covers the worlds most popular sport.

    One would think advertising revenue & viewership would sky-rocket if Fox Soccer (or the equivalent) would move to a basic cable.

  14. I’ve spent time in the Middle East and can tell you the Al Jazeera channels have wall to wall sports including all EPL games. You also get to see the UK half time and follow up discussion shows which put Fox Soccer nonsense to shame. Their Olympics coverage for instance was all live from London with UK commentators.

    So if beIN stream the same format we don’t have anything to worry about.

  15. Well here it took us an eon to get Fox Soccer in HD. BeIN will be in markets based on availability and rumors are that it will be in SD and maybe HD later. Which will take us back to begging Comcast to put it in HD.

    One good thing about BeIN is that Comcast will carry the streaming games via their online service (according to what I have read). We don’t get Fox Soccer Plus on Comcast where I live anyway.

    As Long as BeIN is on Comcast in HD it really won’t matter to us if Fox or BeIN win the rights in the end.

  16. Has anyone heard if Time-Warner is planning to add beIN? I am frustrated with both parties. beIN for throwing money around without having the distribution in place, and TWC for being the last cable company to add new services. I watched the Italian and French games last year and now that we don’t have those, it amounts to a disruption in service.

  17. Just got an e-mail this evening from Directv, introducing me to beIN. However, the e-mail also said that as of 9/13, GOL on channel 627 HD will no longer be available in the Sports Pack. No mention of how or if it will be available at all. Bummer, no Bundesliga.

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