The EFL has confirmed its partnership with Quest to become its new home of free-to-air highlights from the 2018/19 season.
Owned by Discovery and a sister network of Eurosport, the free-to-air channel will broadcast weekly programmes covering the Sky Bet Championship, Sky Bet League One and Sky Bet League Two, as well as the Carabao Cup and Check-a-trade Trophy.
Quest will take over from Channel 5, which has carried EFL highlights in primetime on Saturdays for the past three years, but its coverage never attracted the audiences expected by the broadcaster for such a high profile slot.
Kicking-off next season, the four-year deal will see Quest screen 90 minutes of extensive match highlights every Saturday night, also in a primetime 9pm slot, with Colin Murray, who currently hosts Channel 5’s EFL highlights, confirmed as presenter of Quest’s coverage.
Quest will also broadcast 10 hour-long highlights shows capturing all the action from every round of midweek fixtures, as well as eight hour-long highlights shows from the Carabao Cup and Checkatrade Trophy as part of the deal.
Each show will feature every goal from every EFL fixture, plus in-depth analysis from a selection of expert pundits, led by presenter Colin Murray, who will continue to be the face of EFL highlights on terrestrial television. He said:
“After a really good year, I’m delighted to stay as anchor for proper football! The most important things are the fans, the clubs and the players. We will be all about the football, from the results to the community around it.
“Working for the Discovery group before I already know how serious they are about sport, and they’ll no doubt handle the EFL highlights with passion and expertise.”
With a monthly reach of 12.4 million, Quest is Discovery’s largest channel in the UK and enjoyed its best ever first-quarter performance in 2018. It is available in 27 million homes across Freeview (channel 37), Freesat (167), Sky (144), Virgin Media (172) and BT TV.
EFL highlights will headline Quest’s growing line-up of sports coverage throughout the year which are delivered by leveraging sister network Eurosport’s production expertise.
This list already includes snooker’s Home Nations series, cycling’s Giro d’Italia, British and World Superbike Championships and the Emirates Cup pre-season football tournament.
Commenting on the switch from Channel 5 to Quest as its free-to-air highlights broadcaster, EFL Chief Executive Shaun Harvey said:
“As our new official highlights partner, we’re looking forward to working with Quest over the next four years. This new partnership will provide excellent coverage of EFL football for supporters of our Clubs on a free-to-air platform at a primetime slot of 9pm on a Saturday evening.
“In addition the Carabao Cup and Checkatrade Trophy highlights will also be available alongside special mid-week shows to ensure that fans are kept fully updated with what’s happening across our competitions. As an experienced broadcaster, Clubs and their fans will be able to access high quality coverage on a channel that is committed to making the EFL highlights programme one of its flagship shows, led by the talented and respected host in Colin Murray, who has become a strong advocate for the work the League is undertaking both on and off the pitch.
“Quest is the largest channel in the Discovery portfolio with over 12 million people tuning in each month and alongside the rights based programming, they will utilise their existing and emerging digital platforms to enhance the experience for fans to help tell the EFL story as the new season starts to unfold.”
The new partnership guarantees the EFL comprehensive free-to-air linear coverage and enhanced digital content across Quest’s platforms, building on the current EFL distribution strategy to engage more fans than ever before.
In a first for the EFL, Quest will produce ‘The Reaction’, a new weekly interactive Facebook series also presented by Colin Murray.
With a strong focus on engaging fans from clubs across the country, the series will offer the opportunity for supporters to voice their views and opinions following the conclusion of the day’s matches.
EFL has also assured that Quest will guarantee accessible, high quality coverage across all divisions. The channel is also working with towards launching a high-definition service across all major TV platforms by the time the new deal starts.
Simon Downing, Head of Quest & Eurosport UK, added:
“We are proud to be partnering with the EFL to bring match highlights to millions of fans across the UK. It’s our shared ambition to make coverage of these competitions accessible to as many people as possible, across all consumer platforms.
“We aim to deliver a high-quality free-to-air highlights show that is accessible, catering for all football fans and leveraging the reach of digital platforms to engage more people with the EFL, its clubs and competitions.”
Prior to Channel 5’s association, Football League highlights used to be shown in the ‘graveyard slot ‘after Match of the Day by the BBC, but still brought in one million viewers, double the number that currently watches on Channel 5, despite the latter’s primetime Saturday night slot.
Quest’s new deal also guarantees more free-to-air highlights available than ever before, as under the previous agreement Channel Five only broadcast Saturday night highlights while key midweek games were left unaired for terrestrial audiences.
The BBC and ITV were said to be interested in regaining the rights, but the EFL have preferred to take the bigger offer from Liberty Group, who oversee Eurosport, Quest and the Discovery channels.
The first programme will air on Quest on Saturday, 4 August at 9pm, presented by Colin Murray.