The Premier League has rejected FOX and ESPN's joint bid to retain the U.S. broadcast rights. NBC Universal is thought to have the inside track in the race to bring the world's most popular domestic soccer league to American audiences, Sports Illustrated reports.
"Clearly, NBC seems opportunity in international soccer, which has been trending upward as a television property," the report says.
"The Sports Business Daily reported that NBC would pay the EPL around $83 million per year, an amount that's more than triple the $23 million per year that Fox currently pays for its deal."
The Premier League has yet to announce a winner in the auction to broadcast live Premier League games from 2013-16. New network beIN Sport is thought to be a contender along with NBC.
FOX has been America's go-to source for Premier League action for some time. The network says the loss of the Premier League won't signal the end of its soccer coverage.
"We were disappointed to learn today that English Premier League has elected to move forward with a different media partner despite FOX Sports Media Group's aggressive bid," FOX Sports said in a statement. "FOX Soccer has been the primary US voice of EPL for almost two decades, and has done much over the years to increase its popularity, value and availability. We wish them well. FOX Soccer continues to serve as the primary television and digital destination in the US for elite competitions including UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, FA Cup, CONCACAF Champions League, CONCACAF Gold Cup, and is the future home of FIFA World Cup and FIFA Women's World Cup beginning in 2015."
ESPN, which sublicences select games from FOX, echoed those sentiments.
"We are disappointed that our joint bid with FOX did not retain the English Premier League rights in the United States for the next three seasons. We thank the League, which has been a great business partner, and we wish them well. "We're proud of our role in growing the sport in this country and remain committed to soccer and to its fans. We will continue to work with our colleagues at FOX to provide unrivaled coverage of the Premier League for the remainder of this season."
Losing such a marquee product will be a serious blow to FOX Soccer, as much of its content is geared toward showing and promoting the Premier League. It will undoubtedly seek to regain the Premier League broadcast rights when they come up for auction in three years time. Starting next year, it will have watch the world's richest and most popular domestic soccer competition on another network — just like soccer fans in this country.