Premier League set for new rights partner, BT adds content

The English Premier League has reportedly secured a new domestic rights partner in the form of an undisclosed online operator, with telco BT securing the other remaining package left on the table.

UK newspaper The Telegraph said the deals will be announced at the League’s annual meeting on Thursday, adding that while the identity of the new partner has not been disclosed speculation still surrounds internet company Amazon and social media platform Facebook.

BT is said to have secured a package that will increase its number of live matches for the new rights window from the current 42 to 52 per season.

Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore last month said the top division of English club football was set to finalise its next set of domestic rights with the “imminent” sale of the final two packages available.

In February, pay-television broadcaster Sky retained the bulk of live domestic rights to the Premier League, with the award of contracts signifying a reversal in the trend of sky-rocketing fees from recent tenders, albeit with two packages left on the table.

Incumbent rights-holders Sky, and pay-television rival BT Sport, secured five of the seven live packages on offer at a total value of £4.464bn (€5.09bn/$6.22bn). The rights are for the three seasons spanning 2019-20 to 2021-22.

At the time, the Premier League said there was interest from “multiple bidders” for the remaining two live packages in the marketplace. These are Package F, which comprises all 20 matches from one Bank Holiday and one midweek fixture programme, and Package G – all 20 matches from two midweek fixture programmes.

Meanwhile, Thursday’s meeting is set to lead to a resolution over the ongoing debate regarding the split of revenue from broadcast rights, with Liverpool owner John Henry expressing his frustration at the ongoing subsidising of the League’s lower-ranked teams.

In April, Scudamore is said to have told clubs at the quarterly shareholders’ meeting that the dispute over their 2019-22 overseas broadcast revenue must be resolved at this week’s annual general meeting.

In October, plans by the Premier League’s so-called ‘big six’ to drive through major reform to the way broadcast rights revenue is distributed were shelved, with the top division of English football stating it had become clear that there was currently no consensus for change.

The Premier League cancelled a meeting of shareholders scheduled for October 25 as it became apparent that opposition to the plan would mean that no deal would be reached. The announcement came after a meeting scheduled to discuss the new media-rights distribution model was adjourned on October 4 without an agreement having been reached.

A proposal presented by Scudamore suggested that 35 per cent of the global rights revenue should be divided between the clubs based on their final league position. Currently the rights income is split equally between the 20 clubs, but the six richest clubs – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur – have been pushing for a larger share.

“It’s a disagreement based entirely on governance,” Henry told the Associated Press news agency. “Everyone in the league knows what the large clubs bring to the value of foreign rights, but the large clubs do not have the votes to change something that should have changed as media rights changed over the past 25 years. You cannot stick with the same media strategy forever any more than you can stick with the same football tactics forever.”

Henry, an American, added: “Because of this arrangement (the equal distribution of overseas revenue) and due to parachute payments to relegated clubs, the top three clubs each year in the Premier League receive less overall TV monies than the bottom three clubs when you include parachute payments.

“It’s hard to imagine this continuing much longer. In America, where we have closed leagues, you can argue for these types of arrangements, but it’s much more difficult to ask independent clubs to subsidise their competitors beyond a certain point when you have relegation and especially with the way media is rapidly changing and being consumed today.”