Move over ESPN and Fox Soccer, there's a new soccer broadcasting power in the United States.
NBC has acquired the exclusive television rights for the English Premier League in a deal reported to be around $250 million over the next three years. NBC will start airing EPL games next season.
The pact is a major upset as both ESPN and Fox Soccer were expected to be the front runners to win the rights to the world's most watched league. The two networks will also be negatively affected as only NBC will be allowed to show games, unlike the current agreement where Fox Soccer and ESPN currently split the league's schedule.
"The Barclays Premier League is the pre-eminent soccer league in the world, and is on the cusp of exponential popularity growth here in the U.S.," NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus said Sunday.
NBC's intent to become a major player in the soccer broadcasting scene started last year when it acquired the rights to Major League Soccer. During the year, the network mainly aired MLS games on the NBC Sports Network but also showed a few games on NBC.
With the Premier League, it is expected that more games will be showcased on the network's main channel. NBC has stated that it will air six live games a week on its English channels and will allow web users to stream games as well from the internet.
The previous three-year EPL deal with Fox, that saw some matches sublicensed to ESPN, was worth about $80 million. NBC Sports Network is in about twice as many homes in the U.S. as Fox Soccer but about 20 percent fewer than ESPN.
The EPL has sold its TV rights in Britain to BSkyB and BT for 3.018 billion pounds in a record three-year deal from the 2013-14 season.
In a statement, the EPL said NBC will deliver the ''biggest and broadest programming and promotion commitment ever in the United States'' for the league.
The league's chief executive Richard Scudamore added, ''The NBC Sports Group has an excellent track record in sports broadcasting,''
Follow GOAL.COM USA on