This would mean for BSkyB they may have to shell out £500m more than the £1.31bn it paid to secure the rights to air the package of 92 live games a season it does under the existing three-year contract to 2009/10.
Analysts’ Citi said that inflation in the cost of rights packages in the next auction will be fuelled by “product improvement” – such as a major cash injection into Manchester City and leading Premiership teams Manchester United and Chelsea contesting the Champions League final – and the risk that BSkyB could lose a key games package. (Guardian)
In Asia ESPN holds the Premier League rights and the World Cup but here their rights are limited showing archive Premier League matches. They are in the process of launching their own network in Europe as they have acquired NASN (North American Sports Network) from Setanta. The American broadcaster will be rebranding NASN as ESPN in the near future.
What does this mean for the coverage in UK?
Sky put an enourmous amount of effort into making the as porpular as it is today and it is their main draw. If ESPN do get the rights they will probably try and hire the best British commentators in order to please the main UK fans.
What about in the US?
ESPN used to have the rights to screen Premier League matches in the US but which failed as the advertising money received from other sports events was higher with those at a similar viewing figures. In the US it may take a while for the American audiences to get accustomed to watching English football as opposed to the MLS as the main football competition. However early kickoffs on the weekends and the Monday night games are perfect for their schedule. No other live American sport is taking place at those times, and if sports broadcasting is drawing a crowd then ESPN wants to be their. Fox currently airs English football in the US.
Is a bid likely?
The news about ESPN’s interest in the Premier League TV rights makes absolute sense if the network wants to be as successful in Europe as it has been in the United States. Despite ESPN’s interest in the UK TV rights for the Premier League, no mention has been made of their interest in bidding for the US TV rights for the league. But if ESPN is able to acquire the UK TV rights — and they would be in for a massive battle against Sky Sports especially — this may convince ESPN that the US TV rights would be beneficial too.
A bid may happen but they would be expected to be in for a battle. Sky won’t give this up but are up against a major force. ESPN may at the moment be forced to make a smaller bid similar to Setanta or replace them. Sky Sports won’t give up on their major draw that easily as the Premier League becomes more lucrative.