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The English Premier League has agreed to roll over its existing 5 billion pound ($7 billion) rights deal with Comcast’s Sky, telecom giant BT and Amazon from 2022 to 2025.
The deal comes as clubs in the EPL — the most watched soccer league in the world, which features such teams as Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal — deal with drastic falls in revenue due to COVID-19, which has seen ticket sales plummet as fans were kept away from stadiums and television companies receiving rebates on their existing deals, as well as commensurate falls in sponsorship and other commercial income.
The EPL was given special dispensation by the British government to forgo a bid tender process and roll over the deal, so that the agreement would not fall foul of competition rules.
The domestic rights agreement for seasons 2022 through 2025 with its existing partners on roughly unchanged terms to the current one, signed in 2018, was agreed after some European sports rights deals have seen price tags drop following the coronavirus pandemic.
England’s top-tier clubs agreed with the U.K. government to boost a so-called solidarity payment to lower leagues by 100 million pounds to 140 million pounds ($197 million) as part of the deal.
The EPL said the additional funding will be available to more than 1,000 clubs in the National League system, women’s and girls’ football, EFL League One and League Two clubs, and the Football Foundation.
“We are hugely appreciative of the government agreeing in principle to allow this arrangement and for their continued support for the Premier League and the English game,” said EPL CEO Richard Masters in a statement. “COVID-19 has had a significant impact on football, and renewals with our U.K. broadcast partners will reduce uncertainty, generate stability and promote confidence within the football pyramid.”
The 2018 league rights auction was the first in which video streaming giant Amazon acquired a package of rights for EPL matches.
Paolo Pescatore, analyst at PP Foresight, said the new agreement was all about ensuring stability, while growing streaming service DAZN for now doesn’t get to play in English soccer in Britain. “It will provide much needed financial certainty to all parties,” he said about the deal. “Overall, the winner remains the Premier League and the clubs. This will be a huge blow to DAZN, which is keen to add the crown jewels of U.K. sports broadcasting rights to its fledgling service.”
But Pescatore suggested the streamer could end up with skin in the game. “The outcome puts BT in a far stronger position in forging a strategic deal with DAZN,” he argued. “Otherwise the streamer will be forced to wait another three years at a minimum to get these lucrative sports rights.”
What happens to Premier League rights in other markets is expected to get much attention now that the domestic deals are struck. Said Pescatore: “All eyes will now be on the overseas rights and whether the Premier League can maintain or increase the value as last time.”
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