Premier League rights battle reaches deadline day

Broadcasters and media companies have today (Friday) entered their initial offers for rights to the Premier League, the top division of English club football.

The deadline for bids fell today after the league in December made a total of 200 live matches per season available through seven packages outlined in the tender document for the next cycle of domestic rights.

The total figure, which will apply to each of the three seasons from 2019-20 to 2021-22, represents an increase from the 168 matches per season currently broadcast live by pay-television broadcasters Sky and BT Sport.

The league had earlier assured the UK’s media regulator, Ofcom, it would make at least half of the total of 380 matches per season available to domestic audiences in the next cycle. The extra live fixtures will be available through three rounds of midweek games and one round of Bank Holiday fixtures.

The next cycle will also include entire rounds of Premier League matches being shown live for the first time, but no single buyer will be allowed to acquire more than 148 matches per season.

The seven packages of live rights contained in the tender document include, on a platform-neutral basis:

  • Package A – 32 matches kicking off at 12.30 on Saturdays
  • Package B – 32 matches kicking off at 17.30 on Saturdays
  • Package C – 24 matches kicking off at 14.00 on Sundays, plus eight matches kicking off at 19.45 on Saturdays
  • Package D – 32 matches kicking off at 16.30 on Sundays
  • Package E – 24 matches kicking off at either 20.00 on Mondays or 19.30-20.00 on Fridays, plus eight matches kicking off at 14.00 on Sundays
  • Package F – All 20 matches from one Bank Holiday and one midweek fixture programme
  • Package G – All 20 matches from two midweek fixture programmes

An announcement on the successful bidders for the rights will not be made today, with a decision due next week.

Last week, BT chief executive Gavin Patterson played down the importance of exclusive Premier League rights to BT Sport, stating the telco has a “Plan B” in place should it miss out in the rights auction.

In December, BT and Sky sealed a landmark multi-year deal to make channels available on each other’s platforms. BT TV customers will be able to sign up for all content available via Sky’s Now TV platform, including Sky Sports channels. BT will also be able to sell subscriptions to Now TV’s passes directly to BT customers. At the same time, BT has agreed to wholesale its BT Sport channels to Sky, allowing Sky to sell these channels directly to its satellite customers. It is expected these new services will be available to customers from early 2019.

Patterson said the deal would not affect its bidding strategy for the Premier League rights.