BBC retains Premier League highlights as value of rights rises slightly
By Simon Ward
English soccer’s Premier League has concluded its first UK media rights deal for the next cycle, with the BBC, the country’s free-to-air public-service broadcaster, retaining television highlights for a further three years, through to the end of the 2021-22 season.
The contract is worth £211.5 million ($298.7 million), a slight increase, of just 4 per cent, on the £204 million shelled out by the network last time.
The deal means that the BBC will continue to offer Saturday night highlights of games in its long-established and popular Match of the Day show, which is repeated on Sunday mornings, plus Sunday night highlights on Match of the Day 2, from the 2019-20 season onwards.
There are also several midweek and public holiday Match of the Day shows and support programming such as Football Focus on Saturdays and the midweek magazine show The Premier League Show, which launched for the 2016-17 season.
The Premier League said the award of the rights to the BBC followed “an open and competitive process” although the deal was expected, given that the public broadcaster has offered highlights in all but three seasons (from 2001 to 2004, when ITV had the rights) since the competition began in 1992.
The last highlights deal represented a 13.5-per-cent increase on the £179.7 million the BBC paid for the three seasons from 2013 to 2016.
While the BBC has lost live rights to various sporting events in recent years, Premier League highlights remain a mainstay of its output and, for the 2017-18 season, the partnership has been expanded to include the launch of ‘Super Movers’, a joint initiative intended to help primary school teachers inspire children to become more active and engaged in sport.
With UK live rights shared by pay-television operators, 58 per cent of the Premier League’s UK reach in 2016-17 was delivered solely by the BBC, with the broadcaster's programming being watched by 37 million people (32 million for Match of the Day).
There were a further 40 million requests for shows on the BBC iPlayer catch-up service.
Over 7 million people tune in for Match of the Day and Match of the Day 2 every weekend and in the current campaign the highest five-minute peak for the main programme is 5 million.
The BBC’s only regular live soccer offering is the FA Cup, the English knockout cup competition, in a deal already extended until the end of the 2020-21 season.
Barbara Slater, the director of BBC Sport, said: “To keep Premier League highlights on the BBC is testament to the continued success and popularity of Match of the Day. Our longstanding partnership with the Premier League continues to flourish and evolve as seen with the recently launched Super Movers initiative.
“The new deal strengthens that relationship even further and ensures the nation’s favourite sport will continue to be seen by the widest possible audience.”
Richard Scudamore, the executive chairman of the Premier League, added: “We are extremely pleased that our partnership with BBC Sport will continue through to 2022. They do an excellent job of making the Premier League available to millions of fans across the UK with a range of high quality programming and content.
"People engage with the Premier League in so many different ways yet Match of the Day continues to go from strength to strength, remaining extremely popular with more than seven million tuning in every weekend.”
The Premier League launched the domestic broadcast rights invitation to tender in early December, and, with a highlights deal now secured, attention will switch to the money-spinning race for live rights.
A total of 200 live matches per season split into seven different packages are available, up from the 168 per season currently shared by rival pay-TV broadcasters Sky and BT Sport.
At present, Sky shows 126 live games per season and BT Sport 42 games per season in deals worth a total of £5.14 billion over three years that expire at the end of next season.