Here’s an interesting sports rights nugget that comes from World Soccer Talk via Sports Business Journal (the original is behind a paywall).  The EPL is entertaining the idea of offering multiple rights packages to American networks for the next TV contract that will begin after the 2015-2016 season.

We’ve seen multiple networks broadcast EPL games in the past, but that came through a sublicensing arrangement and not the sale of separate packages.  Before NBC took over the rights a couple years ago, ESPN sublicensed games from Fox to air on their network.

We’ve seen ESPN and Fox form an unlikely alliance on several rights deals, especially in the soccer world with another sublicense deal for ESPN airing Champions League games and the networks combining for MLS coverage.  However, that apparently won’t be the case this time as Fox Sports and ESPN are reportedly not likely to partner on this occasion.

The aspect of multiple packages is going to be enticing to prospective networks.  It’s going to be very tough for Fox Sports to win the entire package of EPL rights and find airtime for them with their Bundesliga contract.  But if they got a slate of Monday afternoon games it could further their soccer footprint in a big way.  The same is true for ESPN.  If they can’t get the entire smorgasbord of EPL games, perhaps there’s a Saturday or Sunday morning window where they could at least get a piece of the action to rebuild their soccer portfolio.  Given the success of the EPL on NBCSN and how the league has grown over the past two years, there’s going to be plenty of competition in the bidding with rights fees expected to soar.

But what about the incumbent?  Predictably, NBC would want to keep hold of all the EPL rights.  That’s a key point for a couple reasons.  First, NBC/NBCSN is interested in sports in which they can have total ownership of – NHL, EPL, F1, Olympic sports, etc.  What they’ve done for the EPL in airing every game (and airing more EPL action than even fans in England have access to) has been fantastic for the league and for soccer as a whole in America.  The quality of coverage is outstanding as well.  Second, NBCSN can’t afford to lose EPL games to a competitor as the league has emerged as one of the network’s tentpole sports.  That exclusivity as a rights partner is a huge draw for the network.

With the paucity of rights deals opening up over the rest of the decade, all of these networks are going to be in play for at least a portion of EPL rights.  Expect an intense bidding war no matter how it breaks down.

[World Soccer Talk]

About Matt Yoder

Award winning sportswriter at The Comeback and Awful Announcing. The biggest cat in the whole wide world.