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US Broadcasters in Feeding Frenzy for Premier League Streaming, Broadcast Rights

Michael King

U.S. media rights for the Premier League are up for grabs, and the question becomes who will take them on after formal bids are submitted early next month. NBC’s current deal for the EPL ends next May. CBS, ESPN, and FOX are expected to join NBC at the bargaining table and submit formal bids for the U.S. rights.

According to Sports Business Journal, the league has said it will consider bids that would split the rights between two media companies, marking a big change from the way the Premier League has handled U.S. rights previously. In earlier years, the rights were only held by one broadcaster. The opportunity is still in play for one company to pick up the rights, but other properties — including the NBA and NHL — have decided to split their broadcast packages among two or more network groups to take advantage of having big media companies help promote their sport.

NBC currently pays more than $150 million as part of a six-year deal signed in 2015. Given the amount of interest this time, don’t be surprised if the fee doubles — or even goes higher. NBC wants to remain the sole U.S. rights holder for the league, which has been a useful driver for its Peacock streaming service.

“We love the game of soccer. We love it on linear, but probably love it even more for direct-to-consumer,” said ESPN’s Jimmy Pitaro at the CAA World Congress of Sports last week. “Absolutely we are interested in more soccer content and we are looking at it right now.”

ESPN and ViacomCBS already have rights to multiple soccer leagues from around the world. In addition to carrying some contests on their linear networks, the media giants stream most of the contests on their ESPN+ and Paramount+ platforms, respectively.

The feeding frenzy behind the Premier League is also affecting Major League Soccer in the U.S., which is also considering new media deals in the near future. According to SBJ, sources say that the media companies have told MLS officials they want to wait until after the bidding process for the Premier League is over before considering any talks around MLS rights.

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