How ITV beat the BBC to secure NFL coverage

ITV has wrested control of NFL coverage in the UK from the BBC, ending the state broadcaster’s seven-year stranglehold on the sport. But how did the commercial TV channel manage to secure the deal?

Sameer Pabari, Managing Director of International Media at the National Football League, has revealed how ITV clinched the three-year UK rights deal to broadcast the NFL. ITV was able to offer the NFL advantages which were attractive from both a financial and an editorial perspective. The deal will bring in increased fees and with ITV being a commercial broadcaster, the new agreement provides the NFL with an opportunity to include sponsors on an additional platform. ITV has also given the NFL assurances about improved scheduling and the popular former NFL players Jason Bell and Osi Umenyiora will be retained as hosts. The NFL has increased editorial control, which gives the organisation the chance to appeal to a younger audience.

Iceland’s only American Football team

The willingness of broadcasters to get involved points to a surge in the popularity of the NFL in Europe with the global reach of the NFL extending to Iceland, where the nation’s sole American Football club, Reykjavik Einherjar played the Northumberland Vikings, with the visitors from the UK winning 52-32.

The popularity of American Football in the land of fire and ice is highlighted by William Hill Iceland offering a range of NFL markets to players in the nation, including the Super Bowl 57 Winner, with the Buffalo Bills currently 11/4 favourites to get their hands on the Vince Lombardi Trophy this season. The endeavours of Reykjavik Einherjar have played a role in the success of the NFL in Iceland.

The expansion of American Football in Europe

The current TV deal demonstrates how the sport is continuing to gain traction in Europe. The expansion of the sport includes six new teams joining the European League of Football for the 2023 season, with the Paris franchise American Football team the latest to join.

The popularity of the sport is further underlined by the decision to play a regular-season fixture in Germany for the first time in NFL history. The fixture between the Seattle Seahawks and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be held at the 75,000-capacity Allianz Arena, which is the home of the German football team Bayern Munich, on the 13th of November. While the San Francisco 49ers will play the Arizona Cardinals at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City on the 21st of November.

Source: Unsplash

This comes after the New York Giants defeated the Green Bay Packers 27-22 in the first fixture of the International Series at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London on the 2nd of October.

The deal with ITV means NFL fans in the UK will be able to follow the action through 23 weekly hour-long shows and includes, alongside live coverage of all games played in London, the jewel in the crown – Super Bowl LVII, which will be broadcast live from the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, on the 12th of February, 2023. It marks a welcome return to the commercial broadcaster, which last broadcast the NFL in 2007. Coverage will remain on the Sky Sports NFL channel and Channel 5 will continue to show each Monday Night Football live game.

The increased attempts to internationalise American Football are welcome as it has been revealed that while the NFL is more popular than the NBA in the United States, US basketball is more popular than the NFL in the United Kingdom, Germany and China.

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