Amazon has emerged as a potential competitor for EPL broadcasting rights.
Sky & BT Sport could face competition for Premier League broadcasting rights from huge American companies with Amazon emerging as the top competitor for the biggest prize in UK sports broadcasting.
Google, Apple, Facebook, and Netflix are other possible rivals for Britain’s most valuable sports rights.
Premier League’s Executive Chairman’s Comments
The executive chairman of the Premier League has indicated that the door is open for online giants to end the reign of BT and Sky and show live matches across the UK for the first time.
Richard Scudamore insisted that there was “no ceiling in sight” after the pair spent £5.14 billion on three seasons of rights in 2015.
He was speaking days after it emerged that Amazon had bid about £50 million to show ATP World Tour tennis over five years.
“We envisage anybody, really, being able to come along and bid for those rights,” he said. “We would need some distribution criteria and to make sure it was readily available across platforms and everything else, but as long as it was widely available and distributed properly, we wouldn’t rule those out.”
Mr. Scudamore conceded it was improbable that the league would “achieve the same compound growth” as between 1992 and 2015 when domestic live rights revenues rose from £38.2 million per year to £1.71 billion. “I think we’d be bigger than gross domestic product, probably, by the time we got there,” he said.
Mr. Scudamore raised the prospect of more than two broadcasters carrying live matches and an “unlikely” scenario of seven bidders winning different packages. While 168 of the league’s 380 matches are on TV in the UK, it has committed to showing “a minimum of 190” in the future.
What did the broadcasters say?
When asked whether they would participate in the next auction, Sky and Amazon declined to comment. Jeff Blackburn, senior vice-president at Amazon, raised eyebrows in April when he told Recode that its $50 million purchase of ten NFL American football games was “about starting to bring live sports to our Prime members all around the world”.
BT made clear that it intends to take part, however. “The Premier League is a key part of our lineup, and of course, I think you should expect us to bid in that auction,” Andy Haworth, the group’s managing director for content strategy, said.
What would this mean for Sky?
Sky could be forced to pay an extra £600m annually to retain the high share of Premier League matches when the next rights auction launches this year.
The prospect of a heated auction involving tech firms has led analysts to estimate that Sky might have to pay a premium of up to 45% on the near £4.2bn it paid last time. That means a further £1.8bn, or £600m annually, to keep Silicon Valley off the Premier League.
“We expect Sky to pay 40% to 45% more in the next Premier League rights auction,” said Thomas Singlehurst, an analyst at investment bank Citi, who has rounded up his peers’ forecasts. “The base case consensus [of Sky analysts] is that payments go up by £600m a year from the 2019-20 season.”
The next auction will kick off before the year end with a tender that will outline how many matches are available, over what time period and in how many packages. Last time, Sky won five of the seven packages. The auction is expected to conclude early next year.
There has been significant inflation in the sports rights market this season: the UK rights to the Champions League rose by 32%, the England and Wales Cricket board nearly trebled its deal for the England cricket team, and the Football League is set to increase its next deal by more than 30%.
The value of Premier League rights has rocketed fivefold from what seemed a heady £1bn in 2004.
This month it emerged that Amazon has entered British sports broadcasting by outbidding Sky for the UK rights to ATP World Tour tennis. The £10m cost of a year of Amazon’s ATP tennis deal would buy it about 81 minutes of one match of the £11m per game Sky pays under its current deal.
Mike Darcey, a former top executive at Sky, believes the value of Premier League rights is close to the top of the market. He predicts inflation more in the range of 15% this time unless a new bidder emerges, which he also thinks unlikely.
The Sky chief executive, Jeremy Darroch, said this year he was getting tougher on price and has “walked away” from deals.
It would be interesting to see whether Sky go for this massive premium on their current deal or we will see the dawn of a new era in Premier League broadcasting.