We don’t know where the Premier League will be airing in America next fall, but we should know soon.

Per the Sports Business Journal, bids are due for the US rights by November 8th, three weeks from yesterday. SBJ also reports that the usual suspects (ESPN, NBC, CBS, and, perhaps surprisingly, Fox) are interested, and that the Premier League could do something they haven’t done in nearly a decade stateside: splitting the package.

CBS, ESPN and Fox are expected to join NBC in submitting formal bids for the Premier League’s U.S. media rights next month, according to several sources. NBC’s current deal ends in May. The league has told interested companies to submit bids by Nov. 8. The Premier League has said that it will consider bids that split the rights between two media companies, a big change from how it has previously marketed its U.S. rights, which to date has only been held by one network.

A split package would probably bring in even more revenue for the league, but it would also be incredibly frustrating for fans. So naturally, expect that to happen. The Athletic reported on the possibility of split packages, which sounds like it could be a nightmare for viewers.

And there could be more winners, too. For the first time in the US, the league is offering four different packages.

The first is the status quo: all 380 matches, to be split between the bidder’s various platforms. The second is new: all 380 games but shared on a co-exclusive basis between two partners.

The third and fourth are single, exclusive packages of 190 games each. One package would bring the first-, third-, fifth-, seventh- and ninth-choice games in odd rounds of matches, and the second, fourth, sixth, eighth and 10th picks in even rounds. The other package would flip the picks.

MLS is also hunting for a new TV deal, but according to SBJ, networks are waiting until after the Premier League’s rights are awarded to engage.

The frenzy around the Premier League has affected MLS, which also is in the market looking for new media deals. Sources said that media companies told MLS execs that they wanted to wait until after the Premier League’s bidding process ended before getting serious with negotiations around the domestic league’s rights.

Based on that blurb, it sure seems like the networks are looking at MLS as a consolation prize. I can’t imagine one company opening up the bank account for both the Premier League *and* MLS rights, but stranger things have happened.

As for the rights fee, NBC’s original deal that started with the 2013-14 season was a three-year, $250 million pact. Its current deal, which began with the 2016-17 season, is a six-year, $1 billion agreement. SBJ reports that the fee could again double, and The Athletic has chimed in to report that a nine-year, $3 billion deal could happen.

Streaming is, of course, going to be a significant component in this rights deal, and I think that’s why CBS, ESPN, and NBC are a bit ahead of Fox in this bidding. Despite Fox’s reported capture of UEFA Euro rights, the network’s non-authenticated streaming service, tubi, is far behind Paramount+, ESPN+, and Peacock in the streaming wars, and it’s unclear whether the company could (or even wants to) feasibly launch a subscription-based service in the next year. In terms of traditional TV, NBC has an edge over both CBS and ESPN in that they don’t have much in the way of broadcast conflicts during Premier League windows – ESPN has its oodles of college football and basketball, along with commitments to both the Bundesliga and La Liga, while CBS also has live college sports and its weekend Serie A windows.

Would the Premier League want its matches in the US to be almost exclusively paywalled? That might actually be the better option for consumers (rather than the mix of cable and streaming that NBC has employed in recent years), even though it doesn’t seem that way on paper. The race for the Premier League rights seems wide open right now, and hopefully we get an announcement sometime in the next month.

[Sports Business Journal, The Athletic]

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.