Every time the Premier League TV rights come up for renewal, as is the case in autumn 2023, the breadth and depth of companies throwing their hat into the ring becomes even more extensive.
In the UK, the likes of Sky and TNT Sports – the artist formerly known as BT – have enjoyed a monopoly on the rights to live games for more than a decade.
But those firms, while profitable, lack the financial heft of some of the other big name brands that are circling – Amazon and Facebook have displayed an interest in acquiring a slice of the rights, with the former already enjoying a package of games each season.
It’s a wonder that bookies and betting operators haven’t thrown their hat into the ring as yet. Many already have a live streaming platform on their websites and apps, so the actual technical element of them broadcasting live games is not in question – indeed, many already show the action from the La Liga, Ligue 1, German Bundesliga and other leagues around the world as part of their existing media contracts.
But do they have the financial power to win the rights to show Premier League games? And would such a move pass the morality test?
With more live games set to be offered in the next renewal package, with the possibility of an end to the 3pm Saturday blackout, this Premier League TV rights deal is likely to be the most expensive in history.
The agreement is expected to last four years, rather than the traditional three, as well, which will also pump the price up and guarantee the EPL an outstanding payday.
So far, Premier League chiefs have resisted the urge to tender out the TV rights as a complete monopoly – the current deal, which runs out in 2025, sees the total package of games split between three broadcasters: Sky Sports, TNT and Amazon Prime.
For the next batch, the total allotment could be split into five different packs – opening the door for Facebook and DAZN, who have expressed an interest. Apple, who were also thought to be interested, have since dropped out of the race as they were not promised global broadcast rights.
An increased purchase price, plus the possibility of more packs of games being sold, means that the door is ajar for new suppliers to walk through. The question for betting firms is do they have the financial clout to acquire rights to broadcast the games?
The answer, in the UK at least, appears to be no. The two biggest gambling operators on UK soil, Flutter and Entain, generate approximately £6 billion and £4 billion respectively in revenue each year. Good numbers, but how much of that would they be willing to spend on an allotment of Premier League games that could cost £1 billion or more?
While the picture is hazy in the UK, in the United States there could be a greater power play. NBC have the exclusive rights to show EPL games until 2028, paying £2 billion for the privilege. But it’s not beyond the pail that a brand like Caesars or MGM Resorts could attempt to muscle in – the latter generates more than £10 billion a year, which is growing exponentially as America embraces legalised sports betting.
With the renewal cost of media rights increasing, could Caesars or MGM outgun NBC and become the exclusive place to live stream the Premier League?
The Right Profile
Here’s the other rub that betting firms would need to overcome to secure the media rights: could they morally justify attracting millions of potential new customers?
That would be great for business, but it would be dubious at best if so many people were forced to open a betting account just to watch their favourite teams – particularly when we remember that a slice of that audience would be under the age of 18.
English football has already shown something of a distaste for the gambling industry, with the Premier League already persuading its clubs to enact a voluntary ban on shirt sponsorships with brands from the sector. That will kick into gear from the 2026/27 season onwards.
It’s also possible that other forms of marketing, such as pitch-side hoardings, will also be minimised too. The government, as part of their White Paper looking at the gambling industry as a whole, has suggested that a Code of Practice be introduced that would unify sporting governors on the matter – ministers’ mention of the alcohol industry hints at a potential total crackdown in the future.
So whether betting firms could even afford to purchase the Premier League’s TV rights package is one thing. But convincing the naysayers on the question of morality would likely be an obstacle too considerable to overcome.