NBC Sports Network looks set to be the new home of the English Premier League beginning next season. NBC bid around $83 million, nearly four times what FOX paid for the TV rights during the last cycle. FOX and ESPN have been informed their joint bid was unsuccessful. The move is a surprise and one that could have significant ramifications for soccer in the U.S.
Interest and investment is encouraging, though the soccer television landscape will become more disparate. Here is how it should look beginning next European club season.
ESPN: MLS, World Cup (2014) and Euro (2016)
FOX: Champions League, World Cup (2018, 2022)
NBC: EPL, MLS
beIN SportUSA: Serie A, La Primera Liga, Ligue Un
Changes: ESPN having no real incentive to sell the sport after the 2014 World Cup will be interesting. After losing out on the World Cup until 2026 at the earliest, does ESPN bother trying to enter the next round of bidding for domestic and Champions League rights? Then there is FOX Soccer, which now has two networks, two World Cups and not a single domestic league.
For Fans: We lament the loss of ESPN’s Premier League coverage, which has been excellent, though this should not affect things greatly. The Olympics are the Olympics. We don’t expect NBC to export some of their more unsavory practices there to soccer coverage. It will be live on television. We’re hoping NBC develops a functional way to watch online, but baby steps. NBCSN has a wider distribution than FOX Soccer and, as the network grows, could mean EPL games without paying for the sports package.
For NBC: This should be a solid move. Original programming is irrelevant. Sports Networks are built on their live offerings. The EPL does not draw huge ratings, but it draws them steadily for nine months per year at a time where any ratings are great. Programming-wise it is a much less costly version of baseball.
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