SPL Renew Deals with Sky and ESPN, Look for Deal to Ignite Title Sponsor Race

November 22, 2011

The Scottish Premier League (SPL) have extended their broadcasting deal with Sky and ESPN until 2017.

Both broadcasters announced they had agreed a new five-year deal offering more money than their existing contract.

The SPL secured a £13 million ($20.3m) annual commitment from the broadcasters when they signed the initial contract in 2009, with the new deal taking effect from the start of next season.

Both television companies, who stepped in when Setanta went out of business in the middle of their more lucrative rights deal, will each continue to show 30 live games a season.

The SPL had employed consultants IMG Media to instigate a feasibility study into the launch of their own television channel but they have been encouraged by recent viewing figures.

The news comes less than two weeks after Clydesdale Bank announced they would end their sponsorship of the competition at the end of next season.

In a statement, SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster said: “Sky Sports and ESPN are two of the biggest names in sports broadcasting and the SPL has enjoyed an excellent relationship with both broadcasters over the course of the current contract, a period which has seen a 28 per cent increase in viewing figures.

“In the current economic climate, announcing an increase in value is excellent news for our clubs.”

Barney Francis, managing director of Sky Sports, added: “We’re delighted to agree this deal with the SPL and continue our partnership with Scottish football that began 20 years ago.

“This long-term agreement means Sky Sports viewers can continue to enjoy coverage of 30 live matches a season, including each Old Firm head-to-head, across TV, mobile, online and tablet devices.”

Ross Hair, managing director of ESPN in Europe, added: “The Clydesdale Bank Premier League has been an important part of our schedule in these first two-and-a-half seasons of our local ESPN channel in the UK and Ireland.

“Scottish football has performed well on ESPN as we work to build our brand locally and develop our long-term business.”

Doncaster is also confident the longer term security and continued high profile afforded to the SPL by the new live TV rights deal will help attract several new suitors to replace Clydesdale Bank.

“The timing of this announcement could undoubtedly not be better from my point of view,” said Doncaster.

“Because to go out to the market place to try to find a title sponsor when you haven’t got a robust, credible live broadcast product, frankly that’s a difficult task.

“But to go to the market place now with the certainty of this five year deal, with the exposure that any sponsor gets through that live deal, is a big part of why they choose to sponsor a league. So it’s fundamental.

“I certainly do expect there will be a lot of interest. The SPL remains Scotland’s foremost sporting competition and in terms of the coverage it’s had over the past few years, the coverage it’s going to have over the next five years with Sky and ESPN and the drama and excitement for which it’s renowned, not just in the UK but overseas, that’s set to continue.

“That’s what any sponsor who ties themselves to the SPL is buying into.

“There has already been interest from potential new sponsors. We will conduct a thorough investigation in the market place, we’ll be open-minded about who we talk to, who shows interest, and then my job is to create options we can bring back to the table and the clubs can vote on.”