LONDON – The English Premier League underlined its status as the world’s richest soccer league Tuesday by completing three-year domestic television rights deals worth more than $8 billion — a 70 per cent increase over the previous contracts.
Sky and BT agreed to pay 5.136 billion pounds ($7.8 billion) to continue showing games live in Britain for three seasons covering the period from 2016-19. That follows the 204 million pound ($311 million) deal signed with the BBC last month for rights to league highlights.
The 70 per cent jump in the cost of live matches replicates the surge when the last deals with Sky and BT were secured in 2012, and should increase the financial gulf between the English topflight and rival leagues.
“It will make our clubs even more competitive against our European counterparts, which has got to be good for us,” Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore said.
Under the new deal, Rupert Murdoch’s Sky will pay 4.18 billion pounds ($6.4 billion) to broadcast 126 games live each season, 10 more matches than in the current 2013-16 deal, and representing an 83 per cent increase in the rights fee.
BT was awarded the other 42 live games of the 168 on offer. BT will pay 960 million pounds ($1.46 billion) over the three seasons, compared to 738 pounds ($1.12 billion) in the current deal.
The league has yet to open the bidding for foreign broadcasters, which can show all 380 games each season live.
“This outcome provides a degree of certainty so clubs can continue to invest and run themselves in a sustainable manner,” Scudamore said. “It also allows us to start planning how the Premier League can continue to support the rest of the football pyramid from the grassroots upwards.”
Sky has held most of the domestic rights since the Premier League’s inception in 1992, helping Murdoch’s operation become the dominant pay TV broadcaster in Britain.
“The company will work hard to minimize the impact of higher rights costs on customers, with the majority of the funding coming through substantial additional savings to be delivered by efficiency plans,” Sky said in a statement.
While the Premier League deals are the biggest in domestic football, they are eclipsed by the NFL in the United States. The NFL’s current TV contracts bring in about $7 billion a year through 2022.
Scudamore, addressing the issue of increased ticket prices, said the league’s priority is to sell out matches.
“I am sure the flexible ticketing policies that have helped keep attendances so high will continue to develop,” he said.
Rob Harris can be followed at www.twitter.com/RobHarris