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Aston Villa watching closely as Amazon complete £650m deal

Aston Villa and their Premier League rivals were given the news in May that the Premier League had renewed its existing broadcast deal.

The £4.5bn deal was a rollover of the current agreement in place between the Premier League and broadcasters, such as Sky Sports, Amazon Prime and BT Sport.

The renewal avoided an auction that could have led to hundreds of millions being wiped off the value of the next deal because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

It was feared that domestic broadcast rights for the next cycle, spanning the 2022 to 2025 season, would see a drop off of around £500m with broadcasters tightening their belts.

That would have been a big blow to both the Premier League and its member clubs, who get an equal share of the domestic TV deal, with extra fees depending on how many times their matches are chosen for live coverage.

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The government has the power to block deals agreed directly on competition grounds but it was supportive in this instance – while agreeing an increase in trickle-down funding – because of the financial impact the pandemic has had on clubs.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said at the time: “It comes at an important time and will enable us to plan ahead with increased certainty against a more stable economic backdrop.”

It is in France where broadcasting rights have been impacted most significantly by COVID-19, French football’s top two divisions thrown into financial chaos after Mediapro, who had won the rights to cover the two leagues in a bumper £800m failed to meet payments shortly after the deal started, missing two instalments, one of £147.5m and another of £130.9m during 2020 and forcing French football to cut its ties with the firm, the Liverpool Echo reports.

French broadcaster Canal+ picked up the remainder of the deal but for a far smaller sum, and with clubs having budgeted for their bumper new TV deal from Mediapro, particularly Ligue 1 clubs, the financial crisis caused by Covid enveloped clubs quickly and forced the league’s governing body, the LFP, to take a government loan in order to see the clubs through the bleakest of times.

Villa’s £14m signing of Morgan Sanson in the January transfer window provided a vital boost to Marseille’s coffers.

Morgan Sanson of Aston Villa
Aston Villa signed Morgan Sanson from Marseille in January

Now, as clubs begin to try and have some hope about what the future will bring as vaccines continue to create a path to normality, the next three-years of broadcasting for French football has been settled, and it is one that could pave the way for big changes in the Premier League in the not too distant future.

Amazon Prime Sport, who until now had only opted to commit to showing select games through their deals, such as the £90m per year 10-game deal that they have with the Premier League, have now committed to a full broadcast package after successfully bidding €250m (£214.6m) per year for the eight Ligue 1 matches each week that had been part of the Mediapro package. The Amazon deal will run over three years at a value of €750m (£643.75m) in a boost to French clubs that will give them some longer term security after the tumult of the past year.

That deal has, however, prompted French football’s long standing broadcaster partner Canal+ to pull out of their own deal with the LFP, a deal that saw them broadcast two Ligue 1 games each week. The LFP intend to hold them to that £285m per year deal.

Previously, Amazon had only entered into a regular weekly sporting broadcast package in tennis, with the men’s ATP Tour.

The move in France presents a potential change of approach, one that could well manifest itself in a full Amazon play for the rights of the Premier League the next time that they come up for auction at the end of the forthcoming 2022-2025 cycle. With more and more people switching over to streaming services from traditional broadcasters there could well be greater scope for Amazon to enter the Premier League marketplace more aggressively than they current do.

That, in turn, could help drive up broadcasting rights for the Premier League from 2025 onwards, with the next three year cycle to retain the same levels as the previous after the new deal was signed with existing broadcasters.

There could well be more players in the market, too, with DAZN expanding their reach and AT&T in advanced talks to create a new company that would merge its media business with Discovery Inc. They already have interests in sport and creating such a media behemoth could see them placed to enter the discussions in a strong position in three years time.

Renewing the current domestic deal for the next three years, something worth almost £100m over the period to Villa and the other 19 clubs, was seen a success for the Premier League.

They will be hoping that the marketplace is bullish with willing bidders by the time the next cycle arrives in order to drive forward the league and retain its position as the most watched and most loved domestic competition in world football.


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