English football’s Premier League weren’t officially notified ahead of Friday’s announcement that NBCSN would be shutting down this year, according to a source.
Nor were Premier League executives told that many of their games would be moved to the USA network this year until the Wall Street Journal broke the story.
Blindsided by Friday’s news announcement, the timing couldn’t be worse. The bidding process for the next round of Premier League TV and streaming rights in the United States will begin in the next few months with the anticipation that NBC Sports will try to renew their coverage of the Premier League for several more years. NBC’s current deal with the Premier League expires at the close of the 2021/22 season.
The expectation is that NBC Sports will face significant competition from other sports networks and streaming services interested in capturing the rights to the world’s most popular sports league. ESPN+ remains a formidable competitor, as are CBS’s soon-to-be-renamed Paramount+, Discovery+, Amazon Prime and DAZN.
NBCUniversal’s Peacock TV is a distinct possibility too. However, the source revealed that Premier League executives have recently become dissatisfied with the number of games featured exclusively on Peacock TV this season. The Premier League wants greater distribution and reach for its games, and broadcasting high-profile games via Peacock TV doesn’t help in the short-term.
World Soccer Talk reached out to the Premier League for a response. According to a Premier League spokesman, the league will not be commenting on this or any of the questions about NBC’s decision to shut down NBCSN as a channel in 2021.
Given the inconsistency of broadcasting games on television and being caught unaware of NBCSN’s future closing, the once stable relationship between the Premier League and NBC Sports has been fractured. Questions remain about how much of a priority the growth of the Premier League is to NBC Sports given the recent emphasis on Peacock broadcasting games, including the biggest game of the season between Liverpool and Manchester United. While the USA channel is in more households than NBCSN, USA isn’t synonymous anymore with sports, which was a similar issue that TNT struggled with when the entertainment channel televised games from the UEFA Champions League.
In its next TV rights deal, the Premier League has to consider which broadcast partner is going to offer the league the greatest reach across television and streaming. Its next three-year deal will take the Premier League past the 2026 FIFA World Cup, due to be hosted in North America in a year where the league will be focused on leveraging as much of the attention on soccer as it can. Between now and then, it’ll be more important than ever for the Premier League to forge a tighter relationship with a broadcast partner that has a strong distribution reach.
Will it be NBC Sports, ESPN, CBS Sports or another broadcaster for 2022/23 and beyond? We will have our answer later this year.
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