Monday, October 29, 2012

NBCUniversal locks up the English Premier League for both its channels and website

A new broadcasting contract to air English soccer matches might have gone completely unnoticed a few years ago. But the deal struck by NBCUniversal to have the exclusive rights to broadcast the English Premier League (EPL) is getting a bit of attention this morning.

The new contract is an interesting result of two events. The first was the purchase of Comcast owned Versus. The sports channel had started to become an important player in the sports broadcasting world, and the acquisition was all the more important as Comcast became a majority owner of NBCUniversal.

The second part is simply that soccer continues to grow in the U.S. Quietly, steadily, and mostly through youth, high school and college sports, soccer is a big activity. High schools are acting like training grounds for young U.S. players, and colleges are not only offering scholarships to U.S. players, but attracting students from around the world. Like American football, colleges are the sport's minor leagues.

Because of this, NBCUniversal's $250 million, three-year deal may look like quite a bargain in a year to two. The deal will allow the broadcaster to air games on NBC, NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus), Telemundo, mun2 and (Both ESPN and Fox were the other networks most interested in carrying the EPL.)

Notice those web rights? You should, because those are huge.

Major League Baseball (MLB) reserves its online rights, knowing that this has become a major way fans watch the games now. Also, those MLB contracts are nonexclusive as contracts have been inked with ESPN and Fox. ESPN, for instance, has an 8-year deal worth $5.6 billion, while Fox is paying less now, its contract is expiring and the broadcaster will probably have to pay a pretty penny to retain its rights.

So $250 million for an exclusive deal lasting 3-years is definitely a bargain.