The Premier League opened the bidding for broadcasters looking to show soccer’s richest league in the Americas from 2013 as the English competition takes advantage of growing U.S. interest in the sport.
England’s top division expects the sale for five territories -- the U.S., Canada, South and Central America, the Caribbean and Brazil -- to be completed in about a month.
Executives from teams including Manchester United and Liverpool forecast an increase on the 1.4 billion pounds ($2.3 billion) the league makes from overseas broadcasters under the current three-year contract. In June, the Premier League announced a 70 percent increase in the domestic rights after British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc (BSY) and BT Group Plc (BT/A) agreed to pay 3.02 billion pounds for three years of games in the 2013-14 to 2015-16 seasons.
The bidding for the U.S. rights, which are held by Fox Entertainment Group, may attract offers from Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN unit and Qatar-backed BeIn Sport among the possible bidders. The U.K.’s Daily Mail reported Comcast Corp.’s NBC Sports may also try to acquire the rights. ESPN currently sublicenses some games from Fox.
Qatar-owned BeIn Sport started English and Spanish-language channels in the U.S. in August. The broadcaster earlier this year started in France, where it owns rights including the domestic league, Champions League and European soccer championship.
Interest in soccer is growing in the U.S., where a quarter of the Premier League’s owners are based. American viewers for this year’s European Championship doubled, according to event organizer UEFA, and a study by ESPN showed soccer to be the nation’s second-favorite sport after professional football among 18-24 year olds.
Rogers Sportsnet currently holds the rights in Canada, Fox Latin broadcasts matches in South and Central America and IMC shows games in the Caribbean. The tender is the first time the Premier League is selling exclusive rights in Brazil, which will host the next World Cup in 2014.
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