NBC will retain the American television rights to the English Premier League (EPL) for the next six years, per a report from New York Times sports media columnist Richard Sandomir. NBC acquired the rights before the 2013-14 season for three seasons. NBC confirmed the news Monday afternoon in a press release, but it didn’t disclose the money involved. The deal runs through 2021-22.
There were reports that the EPL was close to accepting a joint bid from ESPN/Fox/Univision/Discovery, but NBC appears to have retained the highly-coveted television property. Whatever fee the EPL brass accepted, it’s probably huge.
In February the league sold its domestic rights in the UK for three seasons worth over $7.5 billion. In turn, clubs in the Premier League have been able to outspend all but the biggest clubs in Europe, such as mid-table West Brom today closing a club-record $18 million deal for Salomon Rondon from Zenit St. Petersburg, a club back by Russian resource giant Gazprom.
In December the Times reported that EPL games on NBCSN were attracting more viewers than NHL on the same network.
American soccer fans will applaud the move. From the start NBC’s done a fantastic job with its simple, informative studio presentation headed by Rebecca Lowe. More than that, NBC seemed to “get” soccer right away with the brilliant Ted Lasso promos that helped usher in its coverage. It doesn’t hurt, too, that from the beginning of its coverage NBC offered every game of the season live on television or streaming through it’s app. This year it’s added a second weekly game on USA Network for viewers.
As for ESPN and Fox, adding the EPL would have been an excellent addition to either portfolio, but will so many other live events — especially on weekends in the fall and winter — neither sports giant could devote all its time to the league like NBC has done. In turn, this deal likely keeps NBCSN viable for the next six years.
The next big soccer right bid on the horizon will be the UEFA Champions League when that comes up. In light of this development it’s hard to see Fox losing out on retaining it.
UPDATE — John Ourand of Sports Business Journal writes that ESPN never submitted a bid.
[Photo via Getty]