Sports Business Daily outlined the EPL TV bidding rights whereas bids are expected to be due by August 8. As expected, the networks who have or have had EPL TV rights, NBC (current rights holder), ESPN and Fox (previous rights holders) are expected to bid.
The Premier League outlined some rules for anyone bidding for rights. What’s most interesting is that the EPL is willing to accept three and six year bids. While all three are expected to supply both bids, the three year bid will most likely be accepted. It’s said in the article that the six year bid will only be accepted if it “blows them out of the water.” That makes sense from the EPL’s perspective. With rights fees exponentially rising every year, it’s going to take a network to very highly overpay now to make up for the potential growth at the end of the six year deal.
Another rule by the Premier League for this round of bidding is that bids are for one complete package of all the games. In other countries, especially England, there are different packages based on the day and time of games so multiple networks can realistically obtain a piece of the EPL rights pie, similar to the NFL TV rights package in the United States. Also, the three networks apparently plan to put in separate bids according to Sports Business Daily. This means that ESPN and Fox won’t put in a joint bid like the last time they had EPL rights that ended in 2012.
This is a very big positive to NBC and NBCSN to retain their EPL TV rights for at least another three years. Even taking the actual presentation aside and not going into detail how terrific NBC’s EPL coverage has been and the difficulties of ESPN and Fox to match that, NBC is the only network out of the three who can logistically show all of the games.
ESPN can show EPL games on early weekend mornings and Monday afternoons but they have College Football in the Fall and College Basketball in the Winter and Spring. There’s a good chance, even with all of their networks that they cannot show any of the 10 o’clock games and good luck showing the 12:30 Saturday afternoon game, particularly in the Fall.
Fox has a very similar situation. While they don’t have as many rights to College Football and College Basketball as ESPN has, Fox has to schedule around both. Fox also has sports like NASCAR in the Spring, which typically has practice and qualifying sessions on weekend mornings every week. In addition, Fox now has Bundesliga rights and those games are typically on at the same time as EPL games. I know Fox would probably choose to show EPL games over Bundesliga games but with both ESPN and Fox, it can be argued that they just have too many sports to show at the same time and they just cannot please everybody.
NBC, on the other hand, the only sport that NBCSN has that is on at the same time as EPL games is Formula 1 and now NASCAR. It’s unknown what NBC’s plan is since they just now got NASCAR TV rights, but Formula 1 practices and qualifying sessions are typically pushed to CNBC during EPL action and most F1 races go to NBCSN while Sunday EPL games go to CNBC. Handling one sport that only conflicts 14 times a year is a lot better than handling multiple sports, every week, for vast stretches of the EPL season. Just in terms of sheer logistics, the EPL is better off at NBC.
Now you and I both know that our criteria on who should get EPL rights can be different than how the Premier League sets their criteria on who should get rights. I’m not seeing the hundreds of millions that the Premier League is getting so I have a different view on who should get EPL TV rights as the Premier League. But having said that, why is ESPN and Fox bidding on something that seems so perfect for NBC and the EPL?
Most likely, based on the Premier League selling TV rights in a single package, it’s very likely NBC will continue with EPL rights. While ESPN and Fox will be long shots, they will increase the competition and drive the price up for NBC. ESPN and Fox may not be able to prevent NBC from keeping EPL rights but they can force them to pay a lot of money and that can keep NBC from bidding on something else ESPN or Fox may want in the future.
Bottom line, NBC is going to keep the EPL, but ESPN and Fox is going to make NBC earn it. And in the end, that’s business.