NBC Universal Front-Runner In Bid For U.S. Broadcast Rights To EPL
NBC Universal has emerged as the clear front-runner in the race to pick up U.S. rights to the EPL as part of a three-year deal starting with the '13-14 season, according to multiple informed sources. NBC Universal would not return repeated phones calls seeking comment. EPL is expected to make a formal announcement early next week, but sources paint a picture that has NBC in the final stages of a bidding process that started just last week and involved the biggest network groups in the U.S. Sources say NBC's bid would pay the EPL around $83M per year, an amount that would more than triple the $23M per year that Fox currently pays. Sources say Fox and ESPN have been told that their joint bid was not accepted. It is not clear if the al-Jazeera network, BeIN Sport, still is in the running.
SURPRISE, SURPRISE: The emergence of NBC Universal as the clear front-runner in this bidding process comes as a surprise. In the weeks leading up to the bidding process, NBC sources downplayed the company's interest. NBC's bid faced a lot of strong competition. The EPL last sold its rights three years ago to Fox Soccer, which wound up sub-licensing about 80 games per season to ESPN. The two submitted a similar bid this week. Terms of the deal are not known, but a source described Fox/ESPN's losing bid as aggressive. Friday morning was the deadline for submitting the new bids to the EPL. The loss of the EPL could sting Fox Soccer, which relies heavily on EPL matches and analysis shows for programming.