Premier League Asks U.K. to Skip Soccer Broadcast Rights Auction

The English Premier League has asked the British government for the green light to skip a rights auction due this year and roll over much of the existing terms for airing matches for another three years, according to people familiar with the matter.

Following talks with current broadcasters Comcast Corp’s Sky, BT Group Plc and Inc., the Premier League has put the proposal to ministers, who need to clear it on competition concerns, according to the people, asking not to be identified discussing private information.

The arrangement risks locking out potential new bidders. Kevin Mayer, chairman of sports streaming service DAZN Group, expressed an interest in Premier League rights in an interview with CNBC in March as the Len Blavatnik-backed broadcaster pushes to show more nations’ soccer matches.

DAZN is in talks to buy rights in France, where it would be bidding against BeIN for rights to the 80% of matches that haven’t already been bought by Vivendi SA’s Canal+ pay TV unit, according to two people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified. It has already won a deal to become the main domestic broadcaster of Italy’s Serie A soccer league, and last year increased its share of premium rights in Germany.

Skipping the rights auction would lock in income for the Premier League, whose teams have suffered a sharp hit to revenue due to Covid-19, with stadiums being mostly closed for more than a year. By the end of the season the league will have lost around 2 billion pounds ($2.8 billion) in match-day and broadcast revenue because of the pandemic, according to the League’s chief executive officer, Richard Masters.

If rights plummet in value due to exceptional circumstances, the Premier League’s funding of grassroots English soccer could be put at risk, one of the people said. The broadcasting proposal was first reported by the Daily Telegraph.

Representatives for the U.K. Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, DAZN, BeIN, BT, Sky, the Premier League and Amazon declined to comment.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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