New Premier League TV deal could top €5bn with Friday night matches

Premier League is to make 168 live matches available per season – 14 more than current deal

 

The Premier League is to introduce regular Friday night live matches and make more soccer available on TV than ever as it attempts to top its last €3.8bn broadcasting rights deal. But it is stopping short of allowing 3pm televised matches on Saturday afternoons.

For the next TV rights deal from August 2016, the Premier League is to make 168 live matches available per season – 14 more than the current 154 – divided into five packages of 28 matches and two packages of 14 matches.

One of the packages will include up to 10 live games per season on a Friday night. Live matches are currently broadcast by Sky and BT on Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons and Monday evenings.

No single buyer will be allowed to acquire more than 126 matches, the Premier League said, as it published the tender document for the next TV rights auction on Friday.

The tender includes a separate free-to-air highlights package. ITV – which will lose live Champions League football from next season – is expected to challenge the BBC for these rights, threatening the future of Match of the Day.

A separate sales process will take place for two other Premier League rights packages – a “near-live” long-form package of 212 games and an internet-based clips package. These packages are currently held by Sky, and The Sun publisher News UK, respectively.

Three seasons

Currently, the lion’s share of live games is broadcast on Sky, which paid €2.9bn for 116 live matches in the last three-year deal in 2012. The rights to the other 38 games were bought by BT at a cost of €931m, making a total of €3.8bn.

The telecoms company-turned-pay-TV operator became the latest challenger to Sky’s dominance of live top-flight football, after ESPN and Setanta, and it later spent another €1.132m for exclusive live rights to the Champions League, from next season.

The opening up of live Friday night football means the Premier League is almost certain to top its money-spinning 2012 deal, expanding the number of its games broadcast live from 41 per cent to 44 per cent.

Extra games

Sky and BT will go head-to-head for the rights but the cost of live games is likely to be pushed up further by interest from rival broadcasters such as Discovery – the US media company that now owns Eurosport – and Qatar-backed al-Jazeera.

There has also been speculation that technology companies such as Apple and Google-backed YouTube could bid for digital rights. Some analysts believe the expected increased competition could increase the total value of the next live rights deal by 50 per cent to €5.67bn.

BBC and ITV showed live Friday night games in the decade before the top flight became the Premier League. Guardian Service

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