American soccer fans have been reveling in the amount of Barclays Premier League (BPL) soccer they have been able to watch since the 2013-14 season. NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) purchased the rights to broadcast every single match live by signing a three year deal worth $250 million. The deal has paid dividends as BPL viewership in America rose 67% in the first month alone.
Last week a proposal for the newest British television deal was issued to the British broadcasters. The Associated Press reported that the latest deal will feature a regularly scheduled Friday night match, which will be broadcast locally. This may be a welcome change to the current schedule which typically sees matches in three timeslots on Saturday, two on Sunday, and one Monday night match.
Broadcasting BPL matches in Britain is not as simple as NBCSN’s deal. The current domestic television deal is worth an estimated $8.6 billion (£5.5 billion) and runs through 2016. There are several levels that distinguish the domestic television deals with foreign deals. Unlike NBCSN’s coverage of the BPL, British broadcasters are able to purchase packages of games rather than purchase exclusive rights.
The bidding for 2016 broadcasting rights is already underway, with seven packages available and 168 games available for broadcast. These packages allow for a variety of broadcasting corporations to bid, which drives up prices for some of the more desirable deals. Of the 168 televised matches available, one company may purchase up to 126 of those matches. This eliminates a monopoly on all broadcasts, the same way that America’s National Football League broadcasts live games on three different networks. The Associated Press also reports that Sky and BT are currently the two largest carriers of BPL matches, broadcasting 154 games in deals worth a combined $4.7 billion (£3 billion).
These television deals also ensure that matchday revenue is not affected. All Saturday matches at 3pm GMT (10am EST) are blacked out nationally in Britain. This timeslot is when a significant portion of weekend matches are played. This mechanism secures matchday revenue, which accounts for about 22% for the top 20 wealthiest clubs in Europe. Protecting matchday revenue is beneficial for clubs, but fans and other interested parties are unsatisfied. Due to this policy, the most watched soccer league in the world is more accessible to foreigners than it is to local citizens who do not attend a match on Saturday at 3pm. Americans, for example, have unlimited access thanks to NBCSN.
The addition of a Friday night match will most likely have a positive impact for players, as this might alleviate pressure for clubs participating in midweek domestic and European cups. The Friday night match will be enticing for broadcasters to bid on. While decreased viewership is a possibility, it will most likely take in a large portion of Friday night viewership, much like the National Football League’s Thursday night football game in the United States. It certainly will be a risk worth taking but not an unreasonable risk. Other leagues in Europe feature a Friday night match, including the German Bundesliga and Spain’s La Liga.
This new broadcasting deal is expected to increase in value from the current 2013-16 deal. This will benefit the clubs in the top flight since all twenty clubs share television revenue relatively equitably.
The demand for soccer through television or other media sources is increasing around the world. The BPL is reaching a large international audience stretching as far as India and China. Domestic television dollars remain important to the league, but the number of foreign companies that are purchasing broadcasting rights make the BPL unique from other leagues. The United States is one of the largest growing soccer markets in the world. The BPL will collect handsomely when American broadcasters bid for broadcasting rights in 2016. With the BPL’s global appeal, it will be only a matter of time before it surpasses the NFL in television revenue. To all fans of the BPL, stay tuned…