NBC renews deal with English Premier League for 6 years for US broadcasting rights



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NEW YORK — Traditionally a three-year deal, the English Premier League's extension with NBC is for double that.

The company's networks will broadcast the top European soccer league through the 2021-22 season under the new agreement announced Monday. NBC had initially won the rights in 2012 from Fox and ESPN with a three-year contract.

The company submitted both three- and six-year bids, NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus said on a conference call. The longer term "we found tremendously valuable and important," he added.

Financial terms were not released, but Lazarus acknowledged the fees had increased from the current $250 million, three-year deal. He recalled telling Richard Scudamore, the Premier League's executive chairman, during the 2012 negotiations: "If we are successful, we know we are going to have to pay more money to retain these rights."

"That has happened," Lazarus said with a chuckle, "and we are proud that it was successful in growing the league, because we have grown and benefited, as well."

Viewership has been soaring for international soccer in the U.S., making the Premier League a hot property with most major sports rights locked up long term.

The Premier League draws a young, affluent audience that for advertisers is "becoming more and more elusive in television and in television sports," Lazarus said.

NBC Sports will continue to broadcast every Premier League match on TV and through streaming. USA Network added games this season to go along with NBC and NBCSN, with Spanish-language coverage on Telemundo and NBC Universo.

Premier League viewership on NBC and NBCSN averaged a record 479,000 viewers last season — up 9 percent from a year earlier.

"We've just seen it take off," Scudamore said in an interview on NBCSN about American interest in English soccer.

"It's mainstream," he added, "and lots of people are talking about it."

Lazarus said the longer deal would allow for more investment by NBC, including sending more broadcasters over to England. Under three-year agreements, he recalled, "the minute you sign, you sort of feel like you're running for office again."

A person familiar with the negotiations said Fox and beIN Sports also submitted bids. Another person familiar with the talks said ESPN did not because networks were required to bid for the entire package and the games would conflict with its college football schedule. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the negotiations were not made public.

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