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New Premier League rights cycle to usher in Friday night football

The English Premier League will broadcast matches on Friday nights in the next cycle of rights, but the top division of English football has no plans to stage games overseas in the foreseeable future.

The league outlined the parameters of the next rights cycle on Friday afternoon by revealing that 168 matches per season would be offered on a live basis over three seasons, from 2016-17 to 2018-19, up from 154 games in the current cycle.

The rights will be split into five packages of 28 matches and two packages of 14 matches, with one of the packages including up to 10 live games on Friday nights. No single buyer will be allowed to acquire more than 126 matches.

The tender includes a separate free-to-air highlights package and a separate sales process will take place for two other packages – comprising a ‘near-live’ long-form package of 212 games and an internet-based clips package.

The auction will take place early next year, with the rights expected to be awarded in February.

Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore told the Mail on Sunday newspaper that clubs remain “keen” on developing the concept of the so-called ‘39th game’ abroad, but admitted that “the idea of an extra game is gone.”

UK media regulator Ofcom last month opened a competition investigation into how the league sells its media rights following a complaint by pay-television operator Virgin Media.

Following the publication of the tender documents for the next cycle of rights by the league, Brigitte Trafford, Virgin Media's chief corporate affairs officer, said: “This slightly restructured auction simply highlights how few of the Premier League’s games will be available on live TV. It doesn’t change the fact that UK fans will continue to pay the most for the least amount of football in Europe.”