Oct 29 (Reuters) - NBC Universal has won the United States broadcast rights to England’s Premier League for the next two seasons beating current rights holders Fox, the soccer league said on Monday.
The deal raises major questions over the future of Fox Soccer Channel, which has now lost rights to North America’s Major League Soccer, Italy’s Serie A and its flagship English league but retains rights to UEFA’s Champions League.
The Premier League statement did not give financial details of the deal but Sports Business Daily cited sources saying NBC’s bid was for around $83 million per year, more than triple the $23 million per year that reports say Fox is paying.
ESPN, who sub-licence games from Fox, will also be without the Premier League after making a strong effort to promote Saturday morning games on their network.
The Premier League has grown in popularity in recent years with viewing figures rising significantly.
Last season a tape-delayed broadcast of Chelsea v Liverpool in November drew a U.S. record 1.7 million total viewers on Fox’s free-to-air channel.
Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBC Sports Group, said that by using multiple channels, the Premier League would get unprecedented exposure in the States.
“The Premier League is the preeminent soccer league in the world and is on the cusp of exponential popularity growth here in the U.S,” Lazarus said in a statement.
“NBCU will provide the broadest programming and promotional commitment that the league has ever experienced here in the United States. The Premier League provides NBCU with best-in-class content for 10 months of the year across our far-reaching broadcast, cable and digital platforms. This is a perfect match.”
The Premier League said that NBC, NBC Sports Network and NBCSports.com will all be used to present live Premier League coverage, as well as Telemundo and mun2 channels for Spanish-language coverage.
The channels that will be used have a combined reach of 95 percent of the U.S. viewing public each month, the league said.
“The NBC Sports Group has an excellent track record in sports broadcasting and will showcase the Premier League to fans across the USA through its extensive network of channels and high quality production,” said Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore.
Premier League teams have taken advantage of their growing profile in the United States with many of them holding pre-season friendlies in North America which have drawn large crowds.
The deal is the latest major change in the soccer television market in the States coming after Al-Jazeera-owned BeIN Sport grabbed the rights to Italy’s Serie A and Spain’s La Liga from Fox and Gol TV.