NBC Bids to Keep EPL From Disney/CBS as Rights Deals Near Hiatus

English Premier League authorities are anticipated to decide on a brand-new U.S. media offer soon after bidders make their last deals on Thursday, whereupon things will get uncharacteristically peaceful on the sports-rights circuit. When the soccer import locks in its stateside plans—a last decision might be available in time for incumbent NBC to make a statement throughout its Thanksgiving broadcast of the Bills-Saints video game—television networks and streaming services will have a couple of years to survey the landscape prior to the marketplace warms up once again with the similarity NASCAR (2024) and the NBA (2025).

The lull must supply a chance for Huge Media to reassess a few of the more unpredictable forecasts about the state of direct television as it stands in relation to the not-ready-for-primetime streaming platforms. If absolutely nothing else, the hiatus offers the greatest rights holders the high-end of time, a period in which they may get a clearer understanding of how all the components of the hybrid circulation maker are indicated to work together. In some aspects, devoting to a multiyear, multi-billion-dollar rights handle the your-guess-is-as-good-as-mine media market might be viewed as hugely presumptive, similar to choosing names for your children while swiping desultorily through Tinder.

More from Sportico.com

For global juggernauts like the Premier League, there’s not almost as much call to struggle over the future of media. For something, Europe’s most affluent expert sports distribute will make itself richer still, as the brand-new U.S. rights bundle is anticipated to generate some $2 billion. That would successfully double what NBC moms and dad Comcast consented to pay when the business restored its unique EPL agreement in 2015.

While the gamers that stay in contention for a Premier League collaboration might need to sweat things out a bit as authorities make their decision, the only thing that must be maintaining NBC Sports Group chairman Pete Bevacqua is the exclusivity aspect. Unless our English cousins were to catch an especially virulent stress of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, it’s all however difficult to envision that they’d choose to part methods with NBC after a years-long collaboration. For something, NBC’s EPL production is excellent, and the league itself is rather delighted with the quality of the U.S. broadcasts. In addition, the matches that aired on the flagship network last season balanced 879,000 audiences a pop, up 2% versus the year-ago duration, throughout which total television use decreased by almost 10%.

More to the point, NBC is more than willing to absorb the cost of continuing its association with the Premier League. Having just lost the NHL to ESPN and Turner Sports, NBC can’t afford to see a second prestige partner waltz out the door. As much as English soccer doesn’t command the towering ratings of the NFL or Olympics, the EPL is all about cumulative GRPs, or gross ratings points. Impressions really begin to add up across as the season progresses; over the course of the 2020-21 campaign, NBC Sports aired 340 match windows, which works out to 914 hours on live coverage and studio programming.

Of course, almost nobody in the U.S. ever got rich on soccer, and NBC’s no exception. Since the current season got underway in West London on Aug. 13, the league has generated fewer than $8 million in total ad sales for the NBC networks, a figure that includes inventory sold throughout the shoulder programming. A standard Sunday Night Football broadcast will rake that in before the completion of the third ad break.

If the streamlined structure of soccer has always made the sport a tough sell here in the U.S.—the lack of in-match ad breaks probably thwarted soccer’s growth in the 1970s more effectively than did baseball’s hegemonic grip on pre-cable America—NBC’s obvious enthusiasm for the EPL goes a long way toward explaining why the feeling is reciprocated. This is not to say that the Premier League doesn’t throw off any cash; for one thing, another six years of Chelsea/West Ham/Liverpool/Man City action will only serve to boost distribution revenue on the cable end.

With NBCSN set to close shop on New Year’s Eve, the bulk of the televised matches will switch over to USA Network. Not only does that ensure a broader base of potential fans, as USA reaches 80.5 million Television homes, but the addition of premium sports content should provide the necessary leverage for Comcast to further elevate the network’s affiliate revenue. Per Kagan, a division of S&P Global Market Intelligence, USA’s average sub fee is $1.68 per household per month, which works out to around $1.63 billion in annual distribution. By comparison, USA this year is on pace to take in almost $600 million in advertising revenue. As NASCAR races, the Tour de France and Atlantic 10 college basketball migrate to USA alongside the EPL, those commercial dollars will rise accordingly. (Even soccer’s relatively limited ad sales numbers will get a boost by virtue of USA’s wider reach.)

For NBC and legions of domestic Premier League fans, the only unknown variable would seem to be the exclusivity angle. Although the EPL would seem to have made the decision to share the wealth back in September when it didn’t automatically act on NBC’s renewal option, Comcast may be able to retain its grip on the entire package if it agrees to double its current rights payment. If $2 billion is too rich for Comcast’s blood (and it’s probably worth noting here that the cable colossus has a market cap of $242.7 billion), then a B package is likely to be carved out for one of the suitors who put in a competing bid before the Thursday deadline.

A handful of media outlets (Fox, Turner Sports, Disney, ViacomCBS) are expected to make a final overture to the Premier League, with the latter two having been approved to put in a joint bid. A successful tandem effort by ESPN and CBS would serve as an affirmation of both outlets’ ongoing show of enthusiasm for soccer, as Bristol this spring picked up the rights to carry Spanish LaLiga matches, while CBS’ recent spree includes pickups of Italy’s Serie A and the UEFA Champions League.

However things shake out, the rights skirmish suggests that soccer may be poised to make a great leap forward in the U.S. Sharing the wealth among network partners may be simply the thing to help expand the Premier League’s popularity.

That said, more than a few commentators throughout the pond now appear rather encouraged that the EPL is on the brink of dismissing the NFL as America’s a lot of cherished sports company. Slow your roll, Ted Lasso.

Finest of Sportico.com

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.