With live sports dominating TV trends and a number of networks vying for game TV rights, rights fees for lower rated sporting events have been escalation. In addition to Major League Soccer’s 10-year, $2.5 billion deal with Apple TV+, several other deals were struck over the summer, including Formula 1 racing, UEFA
Besides potentially high ratings, there are several other reasons for the increase in media rights fees. The first is to prevent these events from going to video streamers as deep as Apple TV+ and Amazon.
Formula 1 racing: End of June Sports Business Journal reported that Formula One Racing has extended its US media deal with Disney. Under the new three-year deal, Disney will pay between $75 million and $90 million a year. This is a huge increase from the $5 million annual deal Disney struck with F1 racing in 2019, which expires this year. Under the new deal, most F1 races will be shown on ESPN or ABC. A few races will also air on ESPN+. The new agreement expires in 2025.
F1 Racing has been reported to have rejected offers from Comcast
F1 ratings have improved in the US This year, in the first five races on ESPN, viewing numbers have increased by 49% year-on-year. In July, ABC aired the Formula 1 race in Miami which averaged a record 2.4 million viewers. In addition, helping to increase interest in F1 has been Formula 1: drive to survive which offers viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the sport. The docudrama is streaming on Netflix
UEFA Champions League: Another recent deal showing a dramatic increase in media rights fees in the United States was the UEFA Championship Soccer League with Paramount. In August, Paramount renewed its American English-language deal with a six-year deal valued at $1.5 billion. The Hollywood Reporter says the price is 2.5 times higher than the current pact between Paramount and UEFA.
With two years remaining on the current contract, Paramount will be the American home of the UEFA Champions League until 2030. With the United States being one of the host countries for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, we s expect the popularity of football to continue to grow. UEFA is still negotiating its Spanish language media rights deal in the United States.
Reportedly, Paramount outbid other top media companies, including Comcast, which was bidding on English and Spanish packages. Amazon is said to have participated in the last round of negotiations with Paramount. Amazon has the UK broadcast rights to the UEFA Champions League.
Founded in 1955, the annual UEFA Champions League tournament kicks off at the end of June and involves Europe’s major football clubs. The tournament features a round-robin phase with qualified clubs qualifying for a two-legged knockout round followed by a single-elimination league match. Real Madrid are the current champions.
Big Ten Men’s Conference: Lately there has been a lot of movement with colleges and athletic conferences. For example, last year Texas and Oklahoma, two of the most prestigious football schools in the Big 12, announced their departure to join the Southeastern Conference (SEC). A few months later, The Big 12 announced that it would be adding Cincinnati, Brigham Young, Houston and Central Florida to its conference. The college moves continued into 2022 when in July UCLA and the University of Southern California announced they were leaving the Pac-12 to join the Big Ten in 2024.
The addition of the two Los Angeles-based schools made the 16-school Big 10 a national conference with East Coast schools from Rutgers and Maryland in 2014. The Big Ten will have a local school presence in the four largest markets television; New York (Rutgers), Los Angeles (UCLA and USC
In August, the conference struck a seven-year, $8 billion deal (averaging more than $1 billion a year). The new rights deal begins July 1, 2023 and runs through 2029-30 with Fox/FS1, CBS, NBC/Peacock and The Big Ten Network as media partners. The new deal excludes ESPN, which had been televising Big Ten contests for forty years. While football is the most popular sport, the agreement includes basketball (men’s and women’s) as well as Olympic sports.
Looking at the new agreement for college football, Athleticism says Fox will televise games starting at noon on Saturday. Starting in 2024, CBS (after its SEC contract ends) will air televised games with kickoffs at 3:30 p.m. NBC will then air “Big Ten Saturday Night.” This will offer college football fans three Big Ten football games every Saturday on three broadcast networks. Additionally, Peacock will exclusively broadcast eight football games each season.
The networks will alternately televise the Big Ten championship game with Fox televising in odd-numbered years and CBS/NBC alternating in even-numbered years. Last year, the league game averaged 11.3 million viewers. According to Nielsen, in 2021, regular season games generated an average audience of more than 4.1 million viewers on Fox/FS1 and ABC/ESPN.
And after: Upcoming media rights negotiations include NASCAR
Last week the College Football Playoffs announced that they would expand the tournament to include twelve teams. The move will take place no later than 2026, when the current media rights agreement expires. ESPN had the exclusive rights to pay an annual license fee of $470 million. While ESPN expected to bid for a contract renewal, it’s possible the RFP could be televised (and streamed) on multiple networks with a huge cost increase.
The skyrocketing media rights for live sports is also a consequence of the poor ratings that scripted dramas and comedies have suffered. While live televised sports faces the same fragmented landscape, viewership erosion has not been as widespread. As a result, media companies, in addition to outbidding their competitors, see live sports as the last bastion of date viewing.