Sky renews NFL deal in UK until 2025 with dedicated channel to launch
American football's NFL today agreed a new five-year broadcast rights deal in the UK and Ireland with Sky, which will include the pay-TV operator launching an NFL-dedicated channel.
Sky Sports NFL will launch on 3 September, ahead of the start of the 2020-21 season on 10 September. This, according to Sky, marks the first time an international broadcaster has created a channel entirely dedicated to the NFL.
Sky first partnered with the NFL in 1995, and the last deal between the two, signed in 2014, gave the broadcaster live rights to over 100 games per season until 2019, with exclusive live rights to every game played in USA except the iconic Super Bowl.
The new deal runs up until the end of the 2024-25 campaign.
Despite Sky’s previous deal running out at the end of the last campaign, it was never expected to walk away from the NFL, with the league’s UK managing director, Alistair Kirkwood, telling Sportcal last October: “The partnership works well for us… We’ll start (renewal) discussions very soon and hopefully look forward to another partnership.”
He added that “our ratings on Sky are up 30 per cent year on year”, and also said, when asked whether these viewing figures would help the NFL attract a more lucrative rights deal, “we’ve definitely got a great narrative to make that happen.”
Selected international games and the Super Bowl, as well as highlights, have been shown free-to-air in the UK on the BBC, the public-service broadcaster, since 2015, albeit that deal also expired at the end of last season.
Channel 407 on the Sky platform, presently Sky Action, will be renamed Sky NFL and will be a hub for viewers to watch at least five live games every week throughout the regular season, including the first pick game at both 6pm and 9pm every Sunday evening.
Every match on Monday and Thursday nights will also be covered by Sky, while the broadcaster will show all the action from every single playoff game.
Both the Pro Bowl and iconic Super Bowl will also be shown, with Super Bowl LV next year to be shown live from Tampa on 7 February.
NFL Redzone, a popular service which features live action cut-outs as teams approach the opposition’s end zone, will also continue.
Sky has also said it will offer “award-winning documentaries… and brand new weekly shows to review the action and discuss the stories of the league.”
In a statement, the broadcaster said the channel’s launch “marks another important step in the development of the NFL in the UK.”
In addition to its Main Event and Action channels, Sky also has specific channels in place for English soccer’s Premier League (as well as one for other soccer), Cricket, Golf and Formula 1, but this is the first time one has been put in place for a predominantly non-UK sport.
Stephen van Rooyen, chief executive for Sky UK and Europe, said: “We are proud of our quarter-century partnership with the NFL and are hugely excited about launching a dedicated channel which will be a first for the NFL with an international broadcaster.”
Roger Goodell, NFL commissioner, added: “This new five-year agreement and the launch of a dedicated Sky Sports NFL channel will undoubtedly continue our rapid growth in the UK and Ireland.”
The NFL’s opening match next month will feature reigning Super Bowl champions Kansas City Chiefs taking on the Houston Texans.
The NFL has always signalled its intention to carry out a full, normal 17-week regular season this year, despite the global sporting calendar having been severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The only casualties have been the planned international games, four in London and one in Mexico City, which have all been relocated back to USA.
The Jacksonville Jaguars, regular visitors to London in recent years, were set to play two ‘home’ games at the UK capital's Wembley Stadium, while the Miami Dolphins and the Atlanta Falcons were the nominated hosts for games at the nearby Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
The Arizona Cardinals were to be the home team for the game in Mexico City, while the away teams for the international games had yet to be announced.
London has hosted at least one regular season game every year since 2007.
Last year, the BBC showed two of the four NFL games in London live, with the other duo available exclusively on Sky.