NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- U.S. sports broadcasters are ready to kick off a post-World Cup match up: the fight for English Premier League rights.
In the wake of huge World Cup ratings at 21st CenturyFox's (FOXA) - Get Fox Corporation Class A Report flagship network, bidding for the 2016 to 2019 Premier League U.S. broadcasting rights is expected to yield a record-breaking deal this summer. The audience for soccer in the U.S. has more than doubled since the last Women's World Cup tournament, and the price tag for carrying soccer games across leagues and contests has similarly spiked.
"The English Premier League, which is on the market at the moment, is likely to at least double in value in any new deal," wrote Robin Jellis, editor of trade publication TV Sports Markets, in an email. "And this is after the value of Premier League rights in the US increased by almost 300% in the previous rights auction, won by NBC."
Comcast's (CMCSA) - Get Comcast Corporation Class A ReportNBC/Universal is currently paying $250 million for the rights to broadcast the 2013 to 2015 season. That investment has already delivered a bigger average audience than the NHL.
The Premier League is not the only soccer league able to command skyrocketing bids in the U.S., Jellis observed.
"Last May, Major League Soccer and U.S. Soccer secured massive increases of close to 400%, following only a small increase in the deal before that," said Jellis.
To sweeten its winning bid for the Premier League through 2015, NBC offered a streaming and bonus channel package called Premier League LiveExtra, released the NBC Sports MatchMaker app to help fans find bars near them showing EPL games, and hired on-site talent (including current U.S. national men's team keeper Tim Howard) to call the games.
NBC also scored during the World Cup. Its broadcast of the championship game on Telemundo was the most-watched Spanish-language Women's World Cup match in U.S. TV history, netting 1.27 million total viewers. That's nearly double the number of people that tuned in to Telemundo's broadcast of the 2011 Women's World Cup final.
Fox has locked up the rights to all FIFA World Cup play and qualifiers through the men's tournament in 2026. Fox also currently owns the rights to broadcast the Champions League through 2018 and the German Bundesliga for the next five years. Fox and ESPN share the rights to Major League Soccer in the U.S.
As ratings for the Women's World Cup final showed, soccer in the U.S. is no longer a niche sport. As its popularity continues to rise, so will the prices that soccer leagues will seek to charge Fox, ESPN and other eager networks to gather their games.