Premier League opts for bids instead of renewing NBC rights deal, says report

Executives from the English Premier League have opted to consider opening bids from several broadcasters instead of renewing its current U.S. rights deal with Comcast, according to a Bloomberg report.

Chairmen of Premier League clubs will meet next week to discuss the U.S. media rights with opening bids expected from a range of broadcasters including NBC Sports and competitors. Given the popularity of the Premier League combined with the need for live sports content, expectations are that the deal will break new records for club soccer rights deals in the United States.

Last week, World Soccer Talk asked Chairman of CBS Sports Sean McManus about ViacomCBS’ interest in acquiring the rights in the Premier League.

We’re ‘open for business.’ We will look at any property that comes along.

Both ESPN and CBS Sports have very aggressive subscriber growth plans for their ESPN+ and Paramount+ streaming platforms. At the same time, other streaming platforms would surely be interested too including Warner/Discovery+, Amazon Prime, DAZN and fuboTV. All of the broadcasters mentioned have set aside money for rights acquisitions. But the difference maker will likely be the combination of broadcasting games on linear (including over-the-air) television and streaming, which may rule some out of the running.

NBC Sports has been the exclusive broadcaster of the Premier League since 2013, but if the Comcast-owned corporation wants to extend its current deal, it’ll have to pay far more. Bloomberg estimates that the price tag for a new multiyear deal could reach $2 billion over the course of the rights deal, approximately more than double the reported $150 million per season that NBC Sports now pays.

The Premier League and NBC Sports have had a long, successful partnership in the United States with league executives particularly impressed by the marketing machine and linear distribution channels that NBC Sports offer. Also, league officials have remarked to World Soccer Talk how impressed they have been by the successful run of Premier League Fan Fests that have been scheduled around the country in previous years before covid, something that would be hard for the Premier League and a different broadcaster to replicate.

CBS Sports recognizes the effort that competitor NBC Sports has achieved with broadcasting the Premier League. McManus added:

The EPL is a great property. I admire what NBC has done with it in this country. They’ve built it up and promoted it, and produced it in a first-class manner.

Whether or not Comcast-owned NBC Sports is able to win the bidding for the Premier League rights beyond the 2021/22 season, we will have to wait and see. But by opening the process up to rival bids, the Premier League is sending a clear message that the number one factor is rights fees. Distribution and marketing are key, but the broadcaster willing to offer the league the most amount of money for the rights will likely be the winning bid.

Given that this media rights deal is happening at a time when the tech and media companies are in the middle of the soccer streaming wars, this may be the last big opportunity for the Premier League to clinch its biggest television rights deal ever in the United States. When the next media rights deal ends after this one, it’ll be the year 2028.

The final day of NBC Sports’ current media deal with the Premier League ends May 22, 2022.

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