The English Premier League's Australian rights are up for grabs at the end of this year. A blind auction could once again change and further fracture the Australian broadcasting landscape of soccer.
The Australian public's access to soccer has seen drastic broadcasting changes in the last few years. After 15 years of covering the A-League, W-League, Socceroos and Matildas, Fox Sports stopped being the "home of Australian soccer" in June.
A new deal with ViacomCBS means that Network Ten, in conjunction with Paramount+, now cover both the men's and women's domestic top flight, the FFA Cup from the Round of 32 onwards, as well as both national teams.
According to the Australian Financial Review the deals cost $300 million to secure in an attempt by ViacomCBS to become the new "home of Australian soccer". Their only big miss domestically is the next Women's World Cup, which will be held in Australia and New Zealand.
The rights were auctioned separately by FIFA and were snapped up by Optus Sport, for a reported $10.4 million. The broadcaster also has the rights for the UEFA Nations League and the UEFA Women's EURO 2022.
With regards to domestic leagues, Optus currently also holds the broadcasting rights to the Japanese J-League until the end of 2023 and the English Women's Super League and the Premier League for the upcoming 2021-22 season.
Arguably the Premier League is their biggest attraction. The most watched football league in the world, it has been streamed by Optus since they first secured the rights from Fox Sports in 2015 and renewed them in 2018.
However, Optus' English Premier League reign could finish at the end of their current contract.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Optus, Nine Entertainment's Stan Sports, Viacom CBS's Paramount+ and Amazon Prime Video are all preparing to enter the blind auction for the EPL rights. Foxtel is also exploring the possibility of a bid.
The Herald reports that the expected price of the English Premier League rights could be from $225-$240 million for the three-year period, if not more. The auction will be held before the end of the year with the rights beginning with the 2022-23 EPL season.
Whether the rights remain with Optus, or move to another streaming platform, the current fractured soccer broadcasting landscape is expected to continue.
On top of the current agreements already mentioned, Stan Sport AU owned by Nine Entertainment acquired rights for the next three years to the UEFA Champions League, Europa League, the new Conference League and the Super Cup this past July.
The women's UEFA Champions League rights were acquired by DAZN for the next four years, although the UWCL will also be broadcast for free on DAZN's YouTube for the first two years of that contract.
The EFL Championship, English Carabao Cup, Scottish Premiership, Italian Serie A, French Ligue 1, Spanish LaLiga, and German Bundesliga has its broadcasting rights held by beIN Sports which is available on Foxtel, and to stream on Kayo, Foxtel Now, Foxtel Go and beIN Sports connect.
With this recent EPL auction news it appears that Australian-based fans of soccer will have to keep living in a fractured broadcasting world, one that seems to keep getting more complex and expensive every year.