EPL Adds Friday Night Games to Latest TV Package

By Mike Cardillo

The television rights packages for the English Premier League in the United Kingdom starting for 2016-17 season are being made available for bid today before a decision is reached early next year. The big news coming from this is the league is going to add a “small number of games on Friday nights,” via the BBC. The Guardian writes the Friday package could be as many as 10 games.

Unless you’re a UK-based journalist tired of covering the Champions League on Tuesday/Wednesday, the Europa League on Thursday and normal league games on the weekend, this is mostly a positive development. The EPL, although played in England, truly is a global league with fans everywhere on the planet. On a big-picture scale the global television audience trumps all else, including in-game attendances.

Bear in mind, television and soccer in the UK is odd. There’s an old law dating to a former chairman of Burnley’s idea back in the 1960s that doesn’t allow for games kicking off at the “traditional” 3 p.m. local time to be shown live in Britain, in an effort to protect ticket sales. This makes some sense given the four professional divisions in England and more games one television would hurt revenues for the lower league clubs. Staunch English traditionalists are likely loathe to even the thought of Friday games. (Imagine if they saw the lengths some colleges are willing to do to get their games aired on an ESPN network, right?)

On a personal level, I’ve advocated a Friday afternoon European soccer game that would appeal to the East Coast Happy Hour crowd for a while. Admittedly the dreaded East Coast bias is in play here, but if you’re someone like ESPN, NBC or Fox you’ve got much more potential for an audience getting off work on a Friday afternoon to watch a game than, say, 7:45 a.m. on a Saturday or 3 p.m. on a Monday afternoon — aka the sports’s blogger’s special. (The timing of the kickoff probably doesn’t match up the small, ideal window I’d have in mind.)

NBC owns all the rights to the Premier League in the United States after putting in a $250 million bid for a three-year package starting with the 2013-14 season. “The league is yet to open the tender for foreign broadcasters,” so bear that in mind. Given the importance of live sports in the “cable cutting” world of media, figure the EPL rights will go for even more when they go up for bid in America soon. Adding a live Friday afternoon game — even for a handful of dates — in a window where it doesn’t have any other competition will only make the package all that more enticing for bidders looking for more-and-more content.

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[Photo via Getty]