NBC Sports Acquires U.S. EPL Media Rights; Deal Reportedly Worth $80-85M Annually
NBC Sports Group yesterday announced that it has acquired exclusive U.S. EPL media rights through a multiyear agreement that begins with the '13-14 season. Specifics will be announced at a later date, but NBC, NBC Sports Network and NBCSports.com all will provide coverage. NBC Sports Group also will produce comprehensive shoulder programming (NBC). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir reports NBC will "pay the league $80 million to $85 million annually," and will televise "up to 380 games a season on the NBC broadcast network, the NBC Sports Network and at least two other cable networks." About 200 games "will be available on the NBC networks in six time periods on Saturday, Sunday and Monday during the league’s 10-month season." Remaining EPL games will be "available online or in some other packages, one of them probably pay-per-view." NBC Sports Group Chair Mark Lazarus said, "There will be live, exclusive games, and we’re not going to tape delay any of them. Multiple games go on at once, and we can’t carry every one on our networks. But we won’t regionalize games." Sandomir reports NBC "has no plans to resell any of the games to another network, as Fox Soccer now does, sublicensing about a fifth of its games to ESPN." Lazarus: "We think this is a terrific property that we can do a lot with, and the leadership of the Premier League is interested in doing new things in the United States. ... The price we're paying for the Premier League is a terrific value for us" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/29). Lazarus said the games draw a "couple hundred thousand" viewers in the U.S. He added that that he "expects to increase that number over time." Lazarus: "Did we pay more than the others before, yes. But we think the value is there" (WSJ.com, 10/28).
BEAUTIFULLY DRAWN UP: SI.com's Richard Deitsch wrote acquiring EPL rights "gives NBC the most significant soccer portfolio among American broadcasters." NBC is "counting on the EPL to bring eyeballs (and affluent ones at that) to NBC Sports Network, which could use an infusion of high-caliber programming with the NHL on lockout and depressed MLS ratings." Lazarus said, "It will not be unlike the Olympics where you saw programming on CNBC, Bravo, USA or MSNBC." He added that EPL fans "can expect a number of games to be broadcast on over-the-air NBC." Deitsch noted those matches will "likely air Saturdays and be shown live" (SI.com, 10/28). The AP's Rob Harris noted NBC Sports Group in '11 acquired MLS TV rights, and had "success with its soccer broadcasts during the London Olympics." NBCSN's "biggest property is the NHL, whose season runs concurrently with English soccer." Lazarus said that the EPL "will be a good complement to the network's hockey coverage." Lazarus: "It's a younger skewing sport than some others out there, like some that are in a championship series right now" (AP, 10/28).
MAJOR BLOW: SI.com's Deitsch in a separate piece wrote the loss of EPL rights is "significant for Fox, even though it owns the World Cup for rights beginning with the 2015 Women's World Cup in Canada." EPL has been "the jewel in Fox Soccer Channel's programming, and much of the network's programming centers around commentary and news of the league." NBC "sees opportunity in international soccer, which has been trending upward as a television property" (SI.com, 10/26). In N.Y., Belson & Sandomir wrote the deal is "the latest blow to a channel that once dominated the soccer scene on American television." Fox has broadcast the EPL in the U.S. for "nearly two decades." But a source said that NBC will pay "just under four times more than Fox currently pays for the rights" (NYTIMES.com, 10/26).