Sunday, May 5, 2013

What the new Premier League TV deal means for EPL's future

The English Premier League signed a new deal with Sky Sports which will take into effect for the 2013-14 campaign.  The new deal will be worth approximately £3 billion  ($4.8 billion), which more than doubles the current deal.  There are other elements as to who has broadcasting rights in the United Kingdom (BT can broadcast 38 games, essentially breaking the BSkyB monopoly) but what's also included is that NBC will now become the primary broadcaster of Premier League games in the United States, rather than ESPN.

So what does this all mean for the Premier League's future?

Well that ultimately depends on what we're talking about. From a global viewership standpoint, we can't expect much to change in terms of accessibility, in fact it will probably improve.  The Premier League is the most watched football league in the world and consistently makes the most money by attracting viewers everywhere.  For the UK, they get more channels to watch their favorite teams, more live games, etc and I would imagine a similar effect for other countries who already have steady EPL viewership going.

What it means for United States viewers though is something different and has to be put into context.  ESPN typically gets the rights to only one game per week, and then a midweek game around once a month.  So that amounts to roughly 45 or 46 games per season.  ESPN got a lot better about distributing their viewership for all teams starting from the 2010-11 season so it wasn't all Manchester United, Arsenal, or Chelsea games being  aired; however, that's a very small sample of the 380 games per year even if we get a roughly even distribution of seeing all 20 teams play.  Fox Soccer, as a dedicated channel, offered a lot more games but there aren't that many viewers who subscribe to Fox Soccer since the game hasn't reached the point where people are willing to pay for sports packages exclusively to watch soccer.  The bundles and sports packages aren't optimal either so the Premier League hasn't fully tapped into the US market.  So the ability for NBC to get these games means more access for everybody since the network isn't under as much pressure to air other sporting events on Saturday(ESPN typically has to juggle college sports with the EPL, and occasionally Nascar)  And it lowers the need for online streaming.  NBC has promised to air more games than ever before on NBC, NBCSports, and  Accessibility won't be a problem

What will be a problem for us though is that NBC has a bit of pressure on them to maintain the quality of analysis. For established sports, like football, basketball, and baseball, we really don't care about what the commentators have to say all the time since we already have a solid understanding of what's going on in the game.  But soccer is very subjective and the sport hasn't yet reached the same level of popularity or understanding. (importance of possession, pressing, offside rules,etc.)  ESPN made a smart move in getting Ian Darke and Steve McManaman to cover their games.  Ian Darke was already popular with US viewers after covering the national team at the 2010 World Cup, and McManaman was a former elite player in England and Spain who knew enough about the game to reasonably satisfy knowledgeable soccer fans. Essentially, NBC has to find good commentators who can present the game well, otherwise people could lose interest and the overall growth of the sport could diminish.

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