By Mary Cunningham
Philly-based Comcast is retaining broadcast rights to the English Premier League, perhaps the most lucrative TV contract on the planet.
Comcast-owned NBC will pay more than $2.7 billion to continue showing the world’s richest soccer competition.
A person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press it almost triples the value of the U.S. English- and Spanish-language broadcast rights.
NBC won the rights to England’s top league in October, 2012, for $250 million over three years. When the new deal kicks in next season, it will average $450 million per season.
The previous six-year deal, which began in 2016, was worth $1.1 billion, an average of $183.3 million per season.
“Certainly the value and price has gone up that is because the property is incredibly valuable in the U.S.,” NBC Sports chairman Pete Bevacqua said during a conference call. “We had a range that we were comfortable with. We know this will continue to be a success for our company.”
Interest in the Premier League has grown significantly since NBC first gained the rights from Fox for the 2013-14 season. Matches are averaging 609,000 viewers this season, its highest average through this point since 2015-16 and up 14% from last year.
Premier League matches average 220,000 during the 2012-13 season on Fox and ESPN, which broadcast under a sublicense from Fox.
“You go down into midtown Manhattan, and you used to see people walking around with MLB jerseys or NBA jerseys. Now it’s not uncommon to see Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham jerseys just at the same level,” NBC Sports President Jon Miller said. “I can’t tell you the number of people who will tell me or write me and tell me that they sit down and watch the Saturday morning matches with their kids or with their grandchildren. It’s given families a new way to connect.”
The partnership has paid off in other ways. NBC ran promos during the first year featuring Jason Sudeikis as a college football coach named Ted Lasso going abroad to coach Tottenham. That evolved into an immensely popular sitcom on Apple TV+ that captured seven Emmy Awards this year.
NBC and the Premier League have also sponsored fan fests throughout the country, including one in Los Angeles last month and another planned for Philadelphia later this season.
“I think the fact that we focus on the Premier League, that we treat that like we treat the NFL, like we treat Notre Dame Football, like we treat the Olympics to grow the audience, what we’re doing with fan fests around the country, some new ideas we’ll initiate over the new relationship with the Premier League,” Bevacqua said. “I think that was very important to them as they made their decision to continue with us.”
NBC faced heavy competition in bidding from CBS and ESPN, who put in a joint offer during the second round of bidding. Fox, which holds rights to the 2022 and 2026 FIFA men’s World Cups, did not put in an individual bid during the second round, but partnered with other groups.
International rights have provided a significant uplift in revenue for the Premier League after British rights were extended for another three years with Sky Sports, BT Sport and Amazon Prime Video for 5 billion pounds (around $7 billion). Due to the pandemic, the deals were reached based on existing terms.
The new NBC deal covers the 2022-23 season — which will be interrupted by the World Cup in November and December — and runs through 2027-28. It will cover all 380 matches every season.
Matches will continue to air on NBC and Peacock as well as USA Network, which takes over NBCSN’s schedule when the channel shuts down at the end of the year.
“We are delighted to announce our new U.S. broadcast deal with NBC Sports, who have been brilliant partners for the Premier League over the last nine seasons,” Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters said in a statement. “NBC Sports has significantly strengthened the popularity of the League in the United States in that time through its fantastic coverage and promotion.”