Tuesday February 10th 2015 will go down as a landmark for sports broadcasting in the United Kingdom. It was the day that the English Premier League (Soccer) landed a huge £5.136bn deal from satellite broadcasters Sky and BT Sport to show live games through to the end of the 2019 season.
The amount was immediately branded as "obscene" by some, while others tried to put some perspective on it by lauding the EPL as the biggest and best league in the world, and therefore more than worthy of its price tag.
The new deal far outweighs anything that has gone before. When the EPL first launched back in 1992, the first deal was for just £191m over five years. A decade later the stake was raised higher and a figure of £1.706bn was tabled to show live games from 2007–10.
Tuesdays record deal is a 70% increase on the last one, and means that Sky (126 games per season) will be paying £10.8m for every game it shows under the current contract, whereas BT Sport ( 42 games ) are willing to pay £7.6m per live broadcast.
Both companies will see it as money well spent as they and the EPL grow from strength to strength. But what does it mean for the average fan? After all, the TV money filters down into the competing clubs coffers so they can open their cheque books on those exotic summer signings, who in turn demand hefty salaries. This historically means that ticket prices invariably rise, as does that of merchandise and other concessions. Just to balance the books.
It's a vicious circle, but here's hoping that after everyone has had their slice of this lavish cake that the very grassroots of the game will benefit and in turn eventually produce a crop of new talent that the Nation can be proud of once again in big tournaments.
The American Experience
As has been the case for many years now the two conferences are shown, on the whole, by two different companies. At present the AFC is on CBS, and the NFC is FOX Sports territory. The staple of every football week is Monday Night Football and that game is now on ESPN, a deal they acquired from ABC by doubling the deal they previously had with the NFL. Sunday Night Football is almost 20 years old and this is the jewel in NBC's crown, they also show the Kickoff game since its inception in 2006.
To make things a little easier the figures shown are what each broadcasters pays per year, and all current deals expire in 2022, with the exception of ESPN who will have to try and renew a year earlier.
Currently on Sundays FOX are the biggest hitters paying $1.1bn for the right to show off the best NFC talent every week, this just edges out the $1bn that CBS shell out to host the AFC games. NBC's primetime coverage sets them back $950m. The biggest players under the current deal are ESPN who pay a mammoth $1.9bn (these figures also include Spanish television affiliates). Throw in an extra $275m that CBS pays for Thursday Night coverage, and this equates to over $5bn per year. This figure will inflate by a further $1.5bn, when the NFL Sunday Ticket package with DirecTV kicks later in this year.
NFL Network is also on the air and has been since late 2003, being funded by the league it doesn't pay for rights to show games, which it currently does on Thursday, but its live daytime programming as well as historic films and documentaries supplement the live games at the weekends.
It's always hard to compare different markets on both sides of the Atlantic, whatever the genre, given the sheer size of the countries. The fact that the new EPL deal has been glorified in its amount and is over a four year period, is small fry when the NFL can lay claim to a similar amount on a yearly basis just shows the gulf in terms of marketing and audience. Of course soccer is still the planets number one sport so its target audience is always greater than that of American Football, but in terms of TV deals the NFL is still ahead.
For the record the other major sports in the USA don't come close to the NFL TV package. The NBA is currently in a deal through to 2034/25 where ESPN and TNT pay $2.66bn per year. The MLB's major deal is with FOX who are paying 4bn over an eight year period, and TBS who cough up $2.8bn over the same time scale. The NHL has recently secured a deal with Canadian broadcaster Rogers Communications which has landed them $5.232bn over a twelve year span.