Amazon, changes to revenue sharing reshape EPL broadcasting
LONDON (AP) — The Premier League broadcasting landscape was reshaped Thursday when Amazon became the first internet streaming service to buy live, domestic-only rights and clubs agreed they would no longer equally share all cash from overseas channels.
Change is also coming to the leadership of the league, with executive chairman Richard Scudamore telling clubs he will leave his role by the end of the year after almost two decades in power.
Scudamore has overseen the value of television rights soaring 12-fold to more than 8 billion pounds ($11 billion), cementing the competition's status as the richest football league in the world.
He leaves after ushering in a revolution for how British fans will watch live games, with American technology giant Amazon buying two packages of rights that remained unsold from an auction this year.
Amazon's Prime Video service will air two rounds of live matches each season in Britain — not internationally — in a three-year deal from 2019, representing 20 games each season during a midweek program in early December and another around Christmas.
The remaining rights to show another two rounds of midweek games were purchased by BT Sport for 90 million pounds ($121 million), giving it 52 live matches from 2019 to 2022. Sky, whose biggest shareholder is Rupert Murdochs's 21st Century Fox, has 128 games each season in the same cycle.
If Amazon paid a similar amount as BT for 20 games, the league would generate 4.6 billion pounds from the sale of 200 live games in Britain, compared with 5.14 billion pounds for 168 matches from 2016-19.
After the past two domestic deals both produced 70 percent jumps in the value of rights, the league is now experiencing a downturn and looking to generate more revenue overseas where all 380 games are available live each season.
In praising Scudamore for overseeing "outstanding growth," Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck pointed to how he "managed the complexities of keeping the league together."
A fraught divide between the clubs in recent years had centered on leading clubs demanding a greater share of the international revenue stream. Scudamore settled the dispute — for now — by securing agreement between the clubs on Thursday on a new formula.
Any growth beyond the value of the 2016-19 foreign deals with be distributed based on where a team finishes — reflecting the meritocratic allocation of domestic television income.
"By coming together and agreeing this change, the clubs have provided a platform for the future success of the league for many years ahead," Scudamore said.
An additional criteria means the maximum a club can receive is 1.8 times the amount collected by the lowest-earning club from the league when central revenue is distributed. Last season's top-earner with 149.8 million pounds was second-place Manchester United, which took 1.6 times more than last-place West Bromwich Albion.
Half of domestic television revenue is split depending on a team's final position and live appearances on British channels. The remaining half is shared equally, giving each team 34.8 million pounds ($47 million) last year. They each collected 40.8 million pounds ($55 million) last season when the overseas cash was divided equally.
"When the Premier League was formed in 1992 nobody could have envisaged the scale of international growth in the competition which exists now," Scudamore said. "Back then the clubs put in place a revenue sharing system that was right for the time and has served the league well, enabling them to invest and improve in all areas.
"This new agreement will continue that trend with a subtle change that further incentivizes on-pitch achievement and maintains the Premier League's position as the most equitable in Europe in terms of sharing central revenues."
Rob Harris is at www.twitter.com/RobHarris and www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports