The battle for Premier League TV rights in the United States for seasons 2016-2019 has begun.
According to a World Soccer Talk source, the Premier League sent out invitation to tender letters during the first week of July. The interested bidders — such as FOX Sports, ESPN, NBC Sports and others — will have an opportunity to begin the process of gathering materials and readying their bids.
The Premier League uses a closed-bidding system where none of the TV networks knows what the rivals are bidding.
The process can often take several weeks. Plus, there’s a chance that the bidding may go into a second round if the initial bids are very close. And then there’s the contractual agreements that need to be ironed out before an official statement can be made, so we may not hear who has acquired the rights until August, September or October depending on how the process develops.
It’s understood that FOX and ESPN will not enter a joint bid, but questions have arisen regarding ESPN’s spending power given that the network is reportedly considering cost-cutting measures. ESPN has lost 3.2 million subscribers in little over a year.
However, ESPN should not be disregarded. The Premier League offers them a huge potential to get European club soccer back on the self-proclaimed worldwide leader in sports.
NBC Sports Group will undoubtedly be interested in renewing their current deal. NBC’s current deal with the Premier League ends at the close of the 2015/16 season.
While FOX, ESPN and NBC will be battling it out to win the rights to the Premier League, there is always the chance that another TV network may be interested in acquiring the media rights to the league given that NBC’s already-impressive viewing numbers grew by 9% in 2014/15 compared to 2013/14.
With beIN SPORTS close to acquiring the rights to La Liga for the next 5 years, it’s unlikely that they’ll be seriously interested in Premier League rights. But there are plenty of other TV networks or media companies that could be interested.
FOX currently has the rights to the UEFA Champions League, Europa League, select MLS games, FA Cup, Bundesliga, select USMNT games, Euro 2016 qualifiers, Gold Cup, Women’s World Cup 2019, World Cup 2018-2022-2026 and Scottish Premier League. Acquiring the rights to the Premier League would be the icing on the cake for FOX Sports.
Rival ESPN has the rights to select MLS games, select USMNT games, Euro 2016, Euro 2016 qualifiers, World Cup 2018 qualifiers and select Liga MX games, among others.
SEE MORE — Preliminary TV schedule for Bundesliga on US TV.
With NBC Sports only having one soccer property — the Premier League — the onus is on them to put in a serious bid for the 2016-2019 rights. However, with tough competition from ESPN and FOX as well as other networks that will be unearthed later, there’s no guarantee that the Premier League will continue to be on NBC Sports after the 2015/16 season ends.
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