NBC/Comcast’s Premier League deal proves soccer is major US sport



For decades, men’s soccer has been about to arrive in the United States. From Pele to the 1994 World Cup to the creation of MLS, it was always on the doorstep as a major sport on these shores.

The definition of a major sport is largely about money. And, if soccer in this country wasn’t already here, it is now official with NBC/Comcast retaining the rights to England’s Premier League with a six-year extension for a whopping $2.76 billion, according to sources.

For comparison, the NHL’s recent deal will see ESPN and Turner pay them a combined $625 million, while the Premier League will clock in at around $460 million per season.

Mind you, this is for what are considered international rights for the English Premier League (EPL). The EPL receives separate rights in England and other countries around the world.

Lets’ do some takeaways.

NBC needed — and deserved it

NBC has grown the Premier League from a $60 million per year property a decade ago to a $150 million per in 2015 to now $460 million per. That is a staggering increase for the league.

NBC has done it by treating soccer fans with respect. Its coverage is top notch from studio to games.

While NBC has grown the game, the media has changed. At the end of this year, Comcast is shuttering NBCSN, which had been the Premier League’s main home. Now, while the Premier League will continue on cable with USA Network and on broadcast TV with NBC, Comcast feels as if the Premier League is vital for the growth of its direct-to-consumer product, Peacock.

At $1.2 million per game each season (380 games total), it better be. NBC’s rights also include Telemundo.

Everyone basically wanted it

There were nine entities, including ESPN, CBS, Fox, Turner and Amazon, who wanted this Premier League package. It is so desirable because the season extends from August to May. For the subscription direct-to-consumer platforms, this is increasingly important so fans don’t cancel their services. It extends for 10 months.

But they didn’t needed it

ESPN and CBS offered a combined bid for around $2.2 billion (nearly $370 million per year), according to sources. Fox didn’t make a formal offer in the second round of bidding, according to sources. Turner was looked upon as a wild card, though its exact final bid was unknown.

We were told, during NBC’s presentation, the Premier League liked that when network executives presented the only line under Comcast’s soccer programming was the EPL.

At the same time, ESPN and CBS felt like they could be disciplined because they have an array of soccer offerings. CBS, for its direct-to-consumer, has the most prestigious international club event in the Champions League, while ESPN has La Liga (Spain) and Bundesliga (Germany). Fox just picked up the European Championships and is the home of the men’s and women’s World Cup.

They all wanted the Premier League, but didn’t feel like they needed it.

There are 5 major sports in America

While NBC lost the NHL, it clearly valued the Premier League more than hockey. Its final number to retain the rights shows it. Soccer is a major sport.

The consolation prize is the MLS, whose TV rights are soon up. It is not expected to receive as much as the Premier League, but there will be interest.

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