NBC, the US national network, has retained exclusive broadcast rights to English soccer’s top-tier Premier League until the end of the 2027-28 campaign, in a record-breaking deal worth £2 billion ($2.7 billion).
The six-year deal, which starts at the beginning of the 2022-23 season and runs through until summer 2028, has a value of over double (and nearly triple) that of NBC’s current arrangement with the league – $1 billion between 2016 and the end of the ongoing 2021-22 campaign.
The deal, announced yesterday after bidding went to a second round, will see NBC continue to cover all 380 PL games a season and also includes the exclusive rights for Spanish-language coverage in the US. It will take NBC’s association with the Premier League past the 15-year mark. The two first joined forces in 2013, with the last rights deal having been struck five years ago.
NBC saw off strong competition from rival US networks including ViacomCBS, ESPN and Fox to secure rights after the first round of bidding earlier this month failed to come up with a preferred candidate. CBS and ESPN both put in individual bids at the second time of asking, while Fox reportedly allied with other media groups in order to create a joint submission.
The games will be shown across NBC’s main linear channels, its NBC Sports arm, and on Peacock, the broadcaster’s over-the-top platform which requires an additional subscription.
It has been reported that games available on cable TV will not be shared with Peacock subscribers and vice versa.
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A fee of £2 billion would provide £333 million for the league each year, up from just over £115 million per season during the current cycle.
The deal, combined with the Premier league also striking a six-year extension in Australia with Optus earlier today, means that the sales processes for media rights from 2022-23 onwards have now been completed across most of Europe, the Middle East, Africa, North America, and Oceania, although coverage gaps do remain in South America and the Asia-Pacific region.
It also brings the league closer to a point where overseas rights are worth more than domestic ones. The UK rights to the PL between 2022 and 2025 (they operate on a different timescale compared to international rights) are worth £5 billion, with the NBC arrangement going a long way towards helping the overseas total match that figure.
Pay-TV rivals Sky (owned by Comcast, the corporation which is also NBC’s parent company) and BT Sport, as well as internet retail giant Amazon, rolled over their existing domestic coverage deal for the PL earlier this year, into the 2022-2025 cycle.
The scale of the NBC deal will go a long way to alleviating the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic for the league’s 20 clubs – the total losses caused by the pandemic over the last two years is reportedly in the £2 billion region.
The US broadcaster will also regard it as a coup, with the broadcaster having prioritised retaining these rights even over access to some major domestic leagues such as ice hockey’s NHL.
NBC would have been aware that it needed to go significantly higher than the $1.4 billion fee which ESPN spent over the summer for the next eight seasons of Spanish soccer’s LaLiga, with the English league seen in the US as much more of a draw for viewers.
In general, the US is one of the Premier League’s most significant international markets, with clubs regularly playing pre-season games Stateside to increase their popularity and audience share. High-profile US national-team players at Premier League clubs include Chelsea's Christian Pulisic.
Patrick Kinch, analyst at GlobalData, commented on the renewal: “This represents the Premier League's first real consolidation of rights expansion in the US.
“With broadcasters in the US seeing sport continue consistently through the pandemic, giving them a reliable and engaging product to send out to their audience, the demand for soccer in a major international sports market was always likely to skyrocket at the next available opportunity, especially with this deal set to cover the league through 2026, when the US will part-host the men’s Fifa World Cup.
“The extension will be welcomed for the Premier League too, after its domestic rights’ values have plateaued in recent years, with Sky and BT now displaying more fixtures a year for the same annual fee.
“It will also come as a relief given the downturn of rights valuations in previously-key markets such as China where the Premier League has, intentionally or otherwise, taken a step back in recent years.”
Richard Masters, chief executive of the Premier League, has said: “Interest in the Premier League is going from strength to strength and it is great to see the growing global demand to watch our matches and engage with the league … Our international and domestic broadcast revenues over the next cycle will give stability and certainty to the game as a whole, which is particularly important as football recovers from Covid-19 losses.”
Pete Bevacqua, chairman of NBC Sports, added: “This new agreement is a testament to the hard work of production, marketing and other areas of our company, as well as the tremendous partnership that has been established with the leadership and club owners of the Premier League.”
Before the broadcaster first secured rights eight years ago, ESPN covered the action alongside Fox Sports.