So NBC has decided that it better have a backup plan to the NHL in the future.

Last week NBC signed a $250 million 3 year deal with the English Premier League to take the broadcast rights beginning in the 2013-14 season. So the math works out to roughly $83 million a season. NBC also has the rights to the NHL on a 10 year $2 billion dollar contract that began in the 2011-12 season, or $200 million a season. So yes, the NHL is the more valued product for now, but consider that although NBC isn’t paying right now (they just get an extension on their current contract if the season is cancelled), they are also not receiving any product from the NHL. At least the EPL is reliable. Well, okay, the NHL has its own reliability in its lockout schedule.

I’d say that the EPL deal will prove to be a bargain if they market it right (and avoid any tape delays a la the Olympics). The US has a growing soccer interest and MLS average attendances now surpass the NHL and NBA. The EPL is a different breed of sport for North America, the closest comparison has to be MLB where the equity between teams tends to be a bit of a joke, but the league thrives on perennial strong teams like the Yankees (the ones other teams and fans love to hate). The EPL has no concept of balance, yet it is the most popular league in the world. It’s fast, intense, and features many of the biggest names in the sport. No playoffs, no draft, no video review – things that all NA leagues rely on, and except for a rather odd experiment back in the early ’90s no cheerleaders.

The biggest barrier to the EPL in North America is simply the geography. Tape delay is soooo 20th c., but England is 5 hours ahead of the East coast and 8 ahead of the Pacific. The afternoon games in England then become early morning matches – something I’m all too familiar with, but that doesn’t make for the most sociable viewing. The global reach of the European leagues has already put pressure on some of the smaller leagues to adjust their schedule. Teams in Spain have complained that the games have shifted to accommodate broadcast schedules in Asia. North America simply doesn’t have the weight to shift the EPL – consider the size of the new BSkyB contract for the EPL broadcast rights in England are worth $4.86 billion (yeah dollars, not pounds). Suddenly $83 million doesn’t seem so big anymore.

Oh and just a reminder, the NHL is fighting over a total revenue base of $3.3 billion.

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