EPL: Overseas broadcast fees projected to rise to make up for UK dip

Rupert Murdoch's Sky agreed to pay £3.58 billion for a three-year deal to show 128 EPL matches a season from 2019-20.
Rupert Murdoch's Sky agreed to pay £3.58 billion for a three-year deal to show 128 EPL matches a season from 2019-20.PHOTO: AFP

UK income set to drop for first time in 15 years but global appetite unabating

LONDON • English Premier League (EPL) insiders say that they are not concerned about the potential fall in the value of the domestic rights because the overseas television deals are projected to rise significantly.

On Tuesday, Rupert Murdoch's Sky agreed to pay £3.58 billion (S$6.58 billion) for a three-year deal to show 128 EPL matches a season from 2019-20.

Rival BT said it had agreed to pay £885 million to show 32 games a season for three years, after five of seven packages were auctioned.

In total, the companies will pay £4.46 billion to secure the rights for 160 games a season for three years.

The auction of two further packages of 20 games each a season had not finished, with interest from multiple bidders, the Premier League said on Tuesday.

But even the most optimistic forecast of income from the remaining packages would still leave the league's overall total down on or similar to the existing deal - £5.136 billion achieved three years ago for 168 games.

No outcome in the next stage of the auction process is expected this week. What is expected is that the league's income from domestic TV rights for 2019-22 is set to show a fall for the first time in 15 years, and only the second time since its launch in 1992.

It follows successive 70 per cent rises in the value of the rights at the two previous auctions.

The 20 EPL clubs are still set to be rewarded with an increase in income though.

"The blow will be softened by overseas rights, which look set to rise sharply in value and which will continue to drive the richest league in the world's phenomenal commercial success," said BBC sports editor Dan Roan.

THERE'S ALWAYS A LIMIT

This suggests that there is clearly a ceiling that consumers are willing to pay for watching Premier League games and subsequently what providers are willing to bid for.

PAOLO PESCATORE, analyst at CCS Insight, on the drop in value of British broadcasting rights.

Last November, a three-year deal from 2019 was reportedly agreed with China's PPTV worth US$700 million (S$924.2 million) - 10 times the current contract for Chinese TV rights.

US broadcaster NBC also reportedly paid US$1 billion for the six seasons until 2021-22 in 2015.

"On the international stage, deals have already been done in the States, China, Brazil and Africa," Tim Bridge, senior manager at Deloitte's Sports Business Group said.

"The significant growth in new markets suggests the appetite for the Premier League around the world hasn't diluted."

The domestic deals, however, show that UK consumers are no longer keen to pay over-the-top prices, said analyst Paolo Pescatore at CCS Insight.

"This suggests that there is clearly a ceiling that consumers are willing to pay for watching Premier League games and subsequently what providers are willing to bid for," he said.

NOT MUCH WIGGLE ROOM

For a product like the EPL that has such a loyal following, Singapore will pay. The Singapore market is small, and if Singtel wants to retain the rights, they will pay for it, and the fans will likely have to bear the cost of any such price increase.

SONG SENG WUN, chief executive and regional economist at CIMB-GK Research, on the captive market for English football here.

The two remaining packages had probably not been sold because the reserve prices have not been reached, added IHS Markit analyst Tim Westcott.

They are the least attractive options because matches will be broadcast live simultaneously.

These packages could be particularly suited to an Internet-streaming provider, prompting speculation that a US Internet giant such as Amazon, Facebook or Netflix would enter the fray.

THE TIMES, LONDON, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2018, with the headline 'Surging Foreign fees will make up for fall'. Print Edition | Subscribe