According to reports, the English Premiere League (EPL), the top domestic soccer league in the U.K., is discussing the possibility of skipping the next auction for domestic TV rights to the competition, and extending its current deal with Sky, BT and Amazon.
Any such deal would require government approval, and the BBC is reporting that talks are already underway about whether rolling over the £4.7 billion ($6.53 billion) deal would violate competition law. When the rights were sold in 2018, that dollar figure represented a 10% drop from the previous 3-year cycle, and clubs and the League are likely concerned that another drop in price could be imminent after a brutal financial year caused by the COVID-19. A rollover would offer more stable financial ground on which to walk going forward.
“Sports have been under pressure, and that’s been amplified even more by the year of COVID when a lot of sports were disrupted or shut down,” Ampere Analysis’ Guy Bisson told Variety. “A rollover gives them continuity after a very challenging period.”
Major league rights have been a source of significant upheaval in territories such as France, where Mediapro backed out of a billion-Euro deal for League 1, and Italy, where traditional Serie A broadcaster Sky Italia was outbid by DAZN, a U.K.-based streaming platform that is proving to be a major disruptor in the sector, with designs on picking domestic rights in other territories as they become available.
Still seen as crucial by pay TV broadcasters in the U.K., a rollover of the EPL rights could be seen as advantageous to Sky Sports and BT Sport as it assures that they won’t be left without a major foundation to their offerings. Having the rights to top end sports allow broadcasters to push expensive bundles and limit churn of subscribers.
A rollover of the media rights is likely to be met unfavorably by rival broadcasters and streamers however, who may object to being left out of the process.
Neither Sky, BT Sport, Amazon nor the Premiere League have commented on the situation. The news was first reported by The Telegraph.