Old rivalry is new target for media

The draw is out. Chelsea vs Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, July 12 will be broadcast live on NBC and MSNBC.

The 2-2 draw gives the Premier League the relief of avoiding a rancorous repeat of last season, which started with United meeting Chelsea in the Community Shield, and ended when Mourinho was sacked following a hard-fought loss at the Bridge.

With Antonio Conte’s champions packing their 22-man squad and already announced 10 new signings, the focus is turning to other clubs and the scuffles over England’s last remaining TV-rights placements. ITV are the next Premier League broadcast partner after BT Sport signed a nine-year deal worth £3.018 billion ($3.98 billion) last season and will present some matches this season. But, barring a surprise last-minute bid from one of the broadcasters, the much-hyped clash between Manchester United and Chelsea will remain on Sky and BT Sport.

Sky has an option to flex its muscles with the game at a time when it probably has the best relationship with Chelsea, having aired the likes of Chelsea Flower Show and Champions League matches and earlier this month, an interview with Antonio Conte conducted at the sidelines of the World Cup final between Croatia and France.

“Manchester United v Chelsea will be fantastic TV!” Sky quoted Conte as saying. “It is a very strong team, and both my teams are very strong. I respect all my opponents.”

Sky has also submitted formal expressions of interest in hosting the FA Cup semi-finals, and may secure a bid for both finals. But, the tournament’s timing means its 17-day window between Championship and League Cup finals and its international games also would make it difficult to offer the kind of shows Sky is known for.

Meanwhile, the other three broadcasters are left scrambling in a bid to pull out first as FA restrictions limit their ability to fill a minimum of two-thirds of the expected 61 matches. Any bids are likely to be significantly lower than the previous deals for domestically broadcast rights, though no one has officially entered the fray.

One source within the Premier League’s commercial department told media outlets it was looking for options, with a chance to renegotiate with the Premier League how broadcast rights are distributed, or perhaps allow secondary rights to rise in value through the now-simplified “derivative rights.”

The commercial department has tried to take ownership of some territory that had appeared to be up for grabs because of the momentum of other companies with potentially larger ambitions. That includes not only broadcasters, but the organizer of the FA Cup, Wembley Stadium, which holds the tournament’s final, as well as Everton Football Club, which is hoping to share the FA Cup this season with Manchester United for the first time.

Each year, the FA attempts to shop the rights out to other clubs in a complicated series of negotiations that have finally been reorganised. It used to be that a club’s lowest bid at the end of the bidding process yielded a majority of the broadcast rights. The FA and the Premier League insist it is easier for a club to secure an attractive, attractive offer now, and are likely to maintain that new, more open-arms approach.

As well as the big matchups, TV audiences for individual club games are already soaring. Last season, the most-watched Premier League game was a Chelsea vs Manchester United match. It drew 16 million people across England and 6.9 million tuned in in the United States.

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