Report: NBC Universal "clear front-runner" for US Premier League TV rights

the Premier League trophy, and some soldiers - Shaun Botterill

According to a report, NBC is the "clear frontrunner" to broadcast Premier League matches in the US starting next season.

According to preliminary reports from Sports Business Daily, it appears that NBC Universal are the "clear front-runner" in the battle to secure future television rights for the Premier League in the United States. Fox currently has primary rights, with some matches sub-leased out to ESPN and ESPN Deportes. This new deal, if picked, would start next season and run for three years. According to SBD, the new deal would be a marked improvement on the old one.

Sources say NBC's bid would pay the EPL around $83M per year, an amount that would more than triple the $23M per year that Fox currently pays.

That sounds like a lot, but compared to what the league makes in Britain, well...

Still, though, with revenues tripling this is another source of new cash for all Premier League teams generally, which won't help teams against each other, but will help them against foreign teams and leagues, at least compared to the old contract. It may be a small change in the wider scope of things, but it is a positive one financially.

The main competition currently comes from Al Jazeera's new American sports channel beIN Sport, which you may have heard about when reading about the Qatari-based network taking over coverage of all US national team away matches in World Cup qualifying, or buying up the rights to La Liga, Serie A, and Ligue Un in the US, or the fact that they're still not on most television providers, including (as far as I know) mine. It is "not clear" whether beIN Sport is still in contention, but with the amount of money they've spent to this point (unknown in exact figures, but certainly high) anything can happen.

The final announcement should come early next week, and then we'll know how many games we get to actually watch next year. No matter what, things are going to change, as Fox/ESPN have essentially been eliminated.

Honestly, aside from Being: Liverpool and the Champions League (the rights to which Fox should still hold for several years), I don't know what Fox Soccer will show. Their centerpiece was the Premier League, and it looks like after this year, that's going to be gone. Hopefully NBC Universal will actually end up with the rights, because they have a lot more market saturation than beIN Sport currently. I'd have to assume that with EPL matches, beIN would be picked up relatively quickly by providers, but that's still one channel, and no over-the-air network for big matches like Fox had, and like NBC has. Perhaps beIN would open at least one new channel (a la Fox Soccer Plus) or even more than that, as I have long dreamed. That last part's unlikely, but the first part is probably not outside the realm of possibility.

But even if NBC wins, it's probable that fewer games would be live per week, unless they have a really ambitious schedule planned. For the Olympics, NBC brings its full portfolio of channels to bear - hell, Bravo even gets some stuff - but on a week-to-week basis, I'd bet it's most likely that NBC Sports Network would get the bulk of the coverage, with occasional games on NBC (much like what Fox has done in the past). Without ESPN to take some games, and without the wide breadth of coverage provides, it's unlikely that we'll be getting the coverage in the United States that we've enjoyed in the past couple of years.

On the other hand, few details are currently known, so maybe NBC plans to create an NBC Soccer Channel or something. Weirder things have happened.

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