Sky pays £600m to keep EFL rights, with expanded streaming offering
Sky, the UK subscription broadcaster, has retained exclusive live rights to the English Football League, the second-tier structure in the country, in a five-year deal worth £600 million ($795 million) that will entail a significant increase in the number of games televised or available online, many via the clubs themselves.
The agreement comes into effect for the 2019-20 season and comprises up to 183 matches per season, including a maximum of 150 from the three Sky Bet EFL divisions, 15 EFL play-off matches (including all three finals), 15 matches from the EFL Cup (now the Carabao Cup), England’s secondary knockout competition), and the semi-finals and final of the EFL Trophy (now the Checkatrade Trophy), featuring clubs from the lower divisions.
It is envisaged that a majority of these matches will be shown on the new Sky Sports Football channel, as well as on Sky’s interactive and digital platforms, through to the end of the cycle in 2023-24.
Given that the deal is valued at £120 million per annum, it represents a 36-per-cent increase on the current agreement worth £88.3 million per year that expires after next season and includes 145 live games from the EFL Championship, League One, League Two, Carabao Cup and Checkatrade Trophy.
The number of live televised games on Sky is therefore rising by 26 per cent.
However, the new agreement is complemented by new live streaming arrangements under which EFL clubs will, as early as next season, be able to show their league matches in the UK and Ireland as long as they are played outside the traditional Saturday afternoon slot and not broadcast live on the Sky Sports TV channels.
Sky will have the right to stream the same Championship fixtures (80 per season) to subscribers across their interactive and digital services in 2018-19, and the new rights deal will take the total number of matches it can offer to over 260 per season in 2019-20.
The initiative builds on a new venture for this season under which overseas fans can watch live streaming of up to 46 league games of a large majority of the clubs in the EFL divisions via the iFollow service for the equivalent of £110 per season.
Starting this season, the EFL and its clubs will be able to use their iFollow and equivalent services to show matches from the Checkatrade Trophy in the UK and Ireland, before this is expanded to midweek matches in the three league divisions, and Sky's online services, in 2018-19.
In order to protect attendances at domestic matches, no live games can be broadcast or streamed in the UK between 2.45pm and 5.15pm on a Saturday.
In spite of competition from rival pay-TV operator BT Sport, Sky was widely expected to keep the EFL rights, which accompany its live coverage of 126 games per season from the top-tier Premier League (BT Sport shows 42) in a three-year, £4.2-billion deal that runs to the end of the 2018-19 season.
It also ensures an extensive offering of matches for the Sky Sports Football channel that was launched alongside the Sky Sports Premier League channel in a rebranding move this July.
Sky will have rights to televise 114 live EFL weekend games per season, of which a minimum of 20 will be from League One and League Two, with an option to increase the total number to 134 at 12 months’ notice. It will also offer 16 live Championship games on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings across the season.
The result is likely to be an increase in clashes between Championship games on Sky and Uefa Champions League games on BT Sport, which holds exclusive rights to European clubs competitions in the UK.
This will already be seen to some extent this season, with the EFL saying today that Sky will show some games on Uefa match nights, as there are eight full midweek rounds of Championship matches.
In addition, from 2018-19, Sky has plans for a programme similar to the NFL Redzone featuring goals and other ongoing highlights from midweek Championship and Carabao Cup fixtures.
The EFL launched the invitation to tender for broadcasting rights for the next cycle on 30 June, seeking bids for live rights and highlights for between three and five years.
This came after the league opted not to take up its option to prolong the current deal with Sky by a further year to include the 2019-20 season.
It had considered analysis from Phil Lines, the former head of international rights sales at the Premier League, and London-based strategic adviser Oliver & Ohlbaum, who were appointed “to devise a broadcasting strategy that would maximise the financial return and exposure for all 72 member clubs, the EFL and its competitions.”
The EFL has yet to announce a new domestic TV highlights deal for its competitions. Free-to-air commercial broadcaster Channel 5’s current three-year agreement expires at the end of the 2017-18 season.
Welcoming the new deal with Sky, Shaun Harvey, the chief executive of the EFL, said: “These negotiations came at what was an incredibly challenging period in the sale and acquisition of sports rights in the UK and, having fully tested the market, we believe that not only has a significant increase in value for our clubs been achieved, but also the very best deal, with the best partner has been delivered.
“In agreeing a deal over five seasons, it delivers a guaranteed increase in the level of income distributed to EFL Clubs from 2019-20 and long-term financial certainty was an absolute priority throughout this process. It is a partnership that as well as having mutual tangible benefits, allows the EFL to maximise reach and exposure for its competitions, alongside providing further opportunities for clubs to generate additional incremental revenues through iFollow.”
Barney Francis, the managing director of Sky Sports, remarked: “Viewing of live EFL games grew by 12 per cent year-on-year last season, and is up a further 7 per cent so far this season. Fans value our live EFL coverage and we are delighted to be able to offer even more in the coming years.”