Soccer-Premier League clubs renew UK TV deals, skip auction

·3 min read

By Rohith Nair

(Reuters) - English Premier League soccer clubs have renewed their existing UK broadcast deals with Sky, BT and Amazon for another three years, avoiding an auction process that could have lost them money due to a drop in competition between broadcasters.

The deals for the 2022-23 to 2024-25 seasons will be concluded at the same overall value as the current arrangements, the league said, around 5 billion pounds ($7 billion) in total.

Skipping the auction will be a relief to England's top 20 clubs as revenues from domestic broadcast rights deals were expected to fall across Europe's top leagues this year as competition dwindles between the few broadcasters involved.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said the deal would play a major role in a return to normality for the competition and clubs.

"We've been missing three things for 18 months. Our fans, and they're starting to come back next week and I hope on Aug. 14 they'll be back in full," Masters told reporters.

"We've also been missing financial security and the Premier League economy has lost in the region of £2bn in that period.

"And the other thing we've lost is certainty but that feels like it's returning -- with the vaccine programme, people can glimpse a better and brighter future. We work in three-year commercial cycles behind the scenes and what these proposed deals offer is certainty," he said.

Paolo Pescatore, an analyst at PP Foresight, said the deal clearly benefitted the Premier League.

"It will provide much needed financial certainty to all parties. Overall, the winner remains the Premier League and the clubs," he said

Lucrative TV rights deals have helped the Premier League to become the richest league in the world and its clubs to enjoy success in European competition.

Under the current three-year deal signed in 2018, Sky, owned by U.S. broadcast group Comcast, paid 3.6 billion pounds for the rights to screen 128 matches a season. BT shows 52 games at a cost of 975 million pounds.

Additional matches have been screened live this season while fans are not allowed into stadiums.

Amazon has the rights to a smaller number of games via its Prime Video service, while the BBC has renewed its deal for highlights on its long-running Match of the Day programme.

Pescatore said the deal would leave some feeling hard done by, however, such as online sport broadcaster DAZN, which has reportedly also been interested in a deal with BT Sport.

"This will be a huge blow to DAZN, who is keen to add the crown jewels of UK sports broadcasting rights to its fledgling service. The outcome puts BT in a far stronger position in forging a strategic deal with DAZN," he said.

DAZN declined to comment on the process.

SUPPORT FOR SMALLER CLUBS

The league said it had received government approval to renew its broadcast rights without the usual sealed-bids auction among broadcasters due to the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

British media reported that the domestic broadcast rights valuation could have fallen by a further 500 million to 900 million pounds in an open auction.

The new rights deals will include an additional 100 million pounds in funding over the next four years that will go to teams in the lower leagues of English football.

England's Football Association (FA) welcomed the additional funding, saying more than 1,000 clubs in the National League System would benefit.

Sky, which has been the main broadcast partner since the league was launched in 1992, and BT both welcomed the deal as good for their customers and the game. ($1 = 0.7115 pounds)

(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Simon Evans and Keith Weir; Editing by Alex Richardson, Hugh Lawson and Toby Davis)