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Reports: Premier League will offer four-year UK broadcast deals and nears UK£130m EFL settlement

English soccer top flight currently sells deals on a three-year basis but partners want more certainty.

15 September 2023 Steve McCaskill

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  • Rights from 2025/26 set to be sold later this year
  • Up to 270 matches set to be available to UK broadcasters
  • EFL already receives UK£150m from Premier League

The Premier League will reportedly offer broadcasters four-year contracts in its next domestic television rights cycle, hoping the extra year will provide prospective partners with additional certainty to make greater investments.

English soccer’s top flight has offered its rights in three-year increments since the late 1990s. However, this relatively contracted timetable means the league issues tenders for the following cycle often midway during the current term.

This makes it difficult for broadcasters to make plans for the long term given they have fewer matches, different timeslots, or higher bills in the not-too-distant future.

Notably, Setanta Sports exited the UK market two years into a three-year partnership when it was unable to retain all of its Premier League rights in 2009.

The Daily Mail says the push for longer contracts, which echoes similar initiatives by Italy’s Serie A and France’s Ligue 1, would be welcomed by incumbent rights owners Sky Sports and TNT Sports, both of which are said to be eager to increase the number of matches they show from the 2025/26 season.

The Premier League is expected to auction its rights later this year with an additional 60 live games up for grabs, bringing the total number to 270. This leaves 110 matches that won’t be available live on UK television and preserves the traditional 3pm blackout.

The value of the Premier League’s existing domestic rights deals has been relatively static for several years. Competition between Sky and TNT’s predecessor BT Sport had cooled, while the league opted to roll over its UK£5 billion (US$6.2 billion) arrangements during the pandemic rather than go to auction. 

The Premier League hopes the combination of fewer packages, increased inventory, and longer contracts will encourage higher bids from both Sky and TNT, prompt Amazon to increase its expenditure, and attract new players such as DAZN.

In a separate development, the Premier League is expected to agree to a new financial settlement with the English Football League (EFL), which organises the second, third and fourth tiers of English soccer, worth an additional UK£130 million (US$162 million) a year, according to The Times.

The EFL currently receives UK£110 million (US$137 million) in solidarity payments and UK£40 million (US$49.7 million) to fund youth development. Negotiations over an expanded deal have been ongoing for more than a year, with the government warning the planned independent soccer regulator would have the powers to impose a settlement if one could not be agreed.

The proposal set to be accepted is believed to be linked to the Premier League’s media revenue, meaning EFL clubs will hope the top flight is successful in its attempts to secure larger bids from broadcasters.

SportsPro says…

Long-term media deals are commonplace in the US, with the National Football League (NFL) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) among those to have decade-long arrangements that provide financial guarantees for teams.

Meanwhile broadcasters, especially networks, have the freedom to plan their schedules for several years and build up audiences over time. Short-term contracts discourage investment not just in rights, but also production and marketing. In addition, viewers will be lost if a property constantly switches channels or streaming service.

One of the reasons cited for the Premier League’s surge in popularity in the US is its long-term deal with NBC. The network has made significant efforts to promote the league, while viewers know where to go to find live games.

No matter what the length of a contract, broadcasters are still essentially renting content. Longer deals allow both rights owner and rights holder to benefit from audience expansion – even if it does lead to bigger bills further down the line.


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