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NBC Sports Group and the Premier League have reached a new six-year deal that will keep the matches on NBC and NBC Sports Network through the 2021-22 season. The network has one season left on its current three-year, $250 million deal for the matches.
The announcement came Monday from NBC Sports group chairman Mark Lazarus and Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore.
“We are excited to continue our tremendous partnership with the Premier League, and we look forward to presenting the world’s finest soccer league to Americans for many years to come,” said Lazarus in a statement. “As sports fans, there’s nothing better than waking up on a weekend morning to live and relevant events, and we at NBC Sports are thrilled to continue to be this outlet for the fast-growing Premier League fan base.”
The League is said to have won a significant increase for the new package with NBC Sports outbidding aggressive offers from Fox Sports and Qatari-owned beIN Sports. ESPN did not submit a bid, according to network sources. That’s because the bidding rules did not allow for co-bids and ESPN’s commitment to college football would not leave enough room on the schedule for all of the Premiere League content.
NBC Sports has demonstrated its ambition for holding fast to its sports properties. Last year, the net pledged $7.75 billion in a preemptive bid to keep the Olympics through 2032. Lazarus noted in a conference call with reporters on Monday that he expects the Premiere League to be profitable for NBC Sports; the new deal includes mobile and streaming rights as well as any future technologies that might be invented during the course of the contract.
“We are a for profit business, we only try to do deals that are going to help us build value,” he said. “We look at what it does for the power of our sports portfolio and our corporate portfolio. This is another really strong addition for our portfolio. We have every expectation that this will continue to pay off for our company.”
Soccer has grown significantly in popularity in the United States, a record audience of 26.7 million for Fox Sports’ coverage of the July 5 women’s World Cup match between the U.S. and Japan is only the most recent example. And the Premiere League has been a boon for NBC Sports Network where the first season notched a 100 percent year-over-year viewership gains for NBCSN and another nine percent last season. Additionally, last season, four of the five most-watched league matches aired on NBCSN. Premiere League viewership also has exceeded domestic Major League Soccer ratings. The time difference likely helps with this because it means the Premiere League matches air live on weekend mornings in the U.S., where there is little competition from other sports.
And Lazarus said he expects that growth to continue with the just launched current season predicting high single digit to double digit ratings growth for the games. “We think there’s still plenty of head room for this property to grow both on television and digital.”
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