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Just Imagine

English Premier League remains export gold

  • Story Highlights
  • The English Premier League's international rights are currently up for tender
  • Despite current economic downturn the Premier League is in high demand
  • Premier League matches are played into 600 million homes around the world
By Greg Duke
For CNN
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(CNN) -- Despite the worldwide economic downturn it seems there is one commodity that remains as valuable as ever. With media companies around the world paying record sums for broadcasting rights, the English Premier League -- with its array of world-class players -- continues to prove a hugely marketable.

Manchester United won an English Premier League competition that was beamed into 600m homes.

Manchester United won an English Premier League competition that was beamed into 600m homes.

With the new 2009-2010 football season approaching, the Premier League appears to have usurped every other domestic league as the sporting product of choice for most international broadcasters.

The fact that companies are still willing to hang their financial hats on the Premier League, despite increased global uncertainty, is a testament to the large audiences the thrills and excitement of the competition can draw.

And, with the division's international broadcasting rights for the next three years currently up for tender, there appears no sign that financial constraints are hindering the bidding process.

A Premier League spokesman told CNN: "Currently we have 39 international rights broadcast holders, beaming the Premier League into 211 countries worldwide.

"Premier League matches are played into 600 million homes around the world, with an estimated audience of four billion viewers and there is no sign that the huge interest in the product is subsiding in any way."

The spokesman added: "The quality of the Premier League stimulates interest to markets everywhere and attracts audiences from all over the globe.

"It's a very polished product. The grounds are full, the atmosphere is passionate and the top clubs attract supporters from every corner of the globe.

"If broadcasters are going to invest in any sporting property, they are going to choose the one that brings in the biggest audiences, which in turn makes it the most attractive for advertisers."

The Premier League is touted by many as the "most competitive" in Europe, but pinning all you financial strategy on one product is a dangerous game -- as one broadcaster recently found to its cost.

Ireland-based broadcaster Setanta, which also had major audiences in Great Britain and the United States, had an impressive portfolio of sporting rights and events at its disposal.

But the company's purchase of 46 Premier League matches, for £131 million ($215m) was the centerpiece of its coverage for two seasons -- a figure they hoped to recoup from customer subscriptions.

But when the company lost the rights to half of their games, meaning they could show only 23 matches of the upcoming campaign the British operation was forced to cease trading due to a projected loss in subscriptions.

American broadcaster, ESPN, quickly snapped up the rights in a bid to increase their market share, a policy that makes sense according to football business expert Michael Stirling, of sport sponsorship company Global Sponsors.

"Not only is the quality of the product excellent, but the fact that the Premier League is full of players from all over the world makes it both viable and successful," Stirling said.

"Unlike some other major leagues, it is not a foregone conclusion who wins the Premier League. There is a greater distribution of top players across the teams than in any other league and that makes it both interesting and exciting.

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"In recent seasons we have seen the growth in popularity in Asia and Africa. In the past, countries like China have tried to down-play the Premier League in an attempt to promote their own domestic competitions.

"However, the demand and popularity of the league has been too great for these countries not to broadcast matches, and now they embrace it completely."

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