Ball in UK government’s court on Premier League rights rollover
The UK government is contemplating a proposal from English soccer’s Premier League to roll over the current domestic broadcasting rights deals in a move that would provide security for the various parties in a challenging economic climate.
It emerged at the weekend that the league was prepared to scrap the planned open auction for the 2022-23 to 2024-25 seasons in favour of a private sale to the existing UK live rights holders Sky, BT Sport and Amazon.
It is understood that the deals would have similar terms to the existing agreements worth just over £1.5 billion ($2.1 billion) per year.
The plan requires the green light from the government because of competition issues, but it is thought likely to be favour given the negative impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on soccer and the value of premium rights to sport.
With broadcasters tightening their belts, there were concerns that the Premier League faced a further decline in revenue in the UK market, after the value of its rights fell by 10 per cent to £4.7 billion for the current three-year cycle, from 2019-20 to 2021-22.
Therefore, it is felt that a renewal of the existing deals on the same, or possibly slightly lower, financial terms would be beneficial in the current circumstances.
The 20 clubs are likely to welcome the proposal, particularly those that successfully resisted the recent plan of six top teams to join a controversial breakaway European Super League.
In addition, the government would be placated by the maintenance of current solidarity payments to the lower leagues.
However, the lack of an open auction would prevent more live matches passing to streaming platforms such as Amazon and dedicated sports service DAZN, which had indicated that it could be interested in the UK rights in the next cycle.
The Premier League and its broadcasting partners have not commented on the proposed renewals.
Under the current three-year deals, Sky pays £3.75 billion for 128 fixtures per season and BT Sport £975 million for 52 matches per season, while Amazon shows 20 games per season.
However, all matches are presently being shown live on UK television, including some on the BBC, the public-service broadcaster that is usually restricted to highlights, while spectators have been excluded from stadiums because of Covid-19 restrictions.
The impact of the pandemic on the Premier League’s business was highlighted last week when figures contained in its fiscal report for 2019-20 published by the UK’s Companies House showed that revenue had fallen by 9 per cent to £2.884 billion.
This has been attributed in part to rebates paid to broadcasters as a result of the suspension of matches between March and June last season.