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Sky and BT ‘in talks’ to show Premier League free on YouTube channels

The Premier League is said to be in talks with its main domestic broadcasters, Sky and BT Sport, to show selected matches free of charge on their YouTube channels should the season resume behind closed doors amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

It is not yet clear how many of the remaining 92 matches would be shown on the platform, with the final decision likely to be made in consultation with the UK government, according to reports.

UK culture secretary Oliver Dowden told a parliamentary committee last month that the Premier League was considering providing matches on a free-to-air basis if its 2019-20 season resumed.

However, it is not proposed any matches be shown on terrestrial television so as to protect the value of the pay-television rights.

Premier League matches have only been broadcast free on one occasion: on the opening day of the 2013-14 season when Sky showed Manchester United v Swansea and BT Sport broadcast Crystal Palace v Arsenal.

The YouTube initiative is part of plans to broadcast all remaining Premier League matches live if the season resumes. Forty-seven of the 92 matches were already due to be shown live on either Sky or BT Sport, with the former holding rights to the bulk.

It is proposed the other 45 matches be split between Sky, BT and the Premier League’s other broadcaster, Amazon. The split would be based on the proportion of matches each was contracted to show over the 2019-22 cycle.

The Premier League has been suspended since mid-March due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The league is proposing to restart in neutral venues on June 12, with the competition finishing at the start of August.

The English and Scottish FAs last month lifted their bans on the televisual broadcast of Saturday 3pm football fixtures for the remainder of the season, in a move that suggested both bodies were preparing for a possible resumption of domestic football behind closed doors amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Premier League is under pressure to resume matches to protect rights fees from international broadcasters that would otherwise have to be reimbursed. It is thought the league is less concerned about Sky and BT seeking refunds given the existing relationships.