The NBC Sports Group has acquired the American television rights — in English and Spanish — for English Premier League soccer. The multi-year deal starts in August 2013.
NBC Sports Group will have the rights to all 380 Premier League matches annually, played from mid-August until May. Matches will be televised on NBC, NBC Sports Network and NBCSports.com, plus additional NBC properties on occasion. NBC Sports Live Extra will stream matches to web, tablet and mobile devices. The Spanish calls will be available on Telemundo and mun2.
The Premier League features 20 English clubs in its premier division, each of which plays 38 matches over a 41-week period. The Premier League is recognized as the best professional soccer league in the world, with a worldwide TV audience reach of 4.7 billion.
This is a major international acquisition by NBC, and puts a crimp in the plans of both ESPN and Fox Soccer, two cable networks that have been airing Premier League action. ESPN and ESPN Deportes has been airing an early Saturday morning contest and occasional early week contests. The Premier League has been a staple of programming on Fox Soccer and Fox Soccer Plus with up to three live and two delayed matches on Saturdays and Sundays.
The future of Fox Soccer has to be questioned, with the rights to Premier League, Italy’s Serie A and USA’s Major League Soccer lost in the last year. Fox Sports executives have been mum about specific plans but speculation has the cable giant converting some of its cable properties into numbered Fox Sports channels, such as Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2 (much like ESPN and ESPN2). The racing channel Speed has been widely speculated as being converted to a 24/7 Fox Sports cable presence, with the recent college deals with the Pac 12 and Big 12 conferences and lengthy Major League Baseball contract providing adequate programming for the networks.