The Premier League has initiated the bid process to allot media rights for a three-season cycle, starting with the 2019-20 edition. World’s richest football league has made available to interested parties two separate Invitations to Tender for its UK live and free-to-air highlights rights for the three seasons (2019-20 to 2021-22).
The Invitation to Tender documents describe the media rights packages for which fresh bids are invited. The EPL has split the ‘Live audio-visual rights’ to a total of 200 matches per season into seven different packages. The documents also include a Free-to-Air highlights package.
The Live rights will comprise five packages of 32 matches and two packages of 20 matches per season. The packages include provisions for all matches in three midweek rounds per season, and one Bank Holiday round per season, to be broadcast live.
One package includes the rights to broadcast live a maximum of eight matches per season on Saturdays at 19:45. This creates an attractive offering for broadcasters and fans while allowing the continued protection of the Saturday 15:00 “closed period” – the purpose of which is to encourage attendances and participation at all levels of the sport at the traditional time at which English football takes place across the country.
The league is seeking a significant increase on the current £5.14bn domestic television deal which runs until 2019. Interestingly, no single buyer will be allowed to acquire more than 148 matches per season.
The Premier League intends at a later date to conduct a separate sales process for a single Near-Live package. This particular package will encompass near-live long-form rights to 180 non-live matches per season, for linear and on-demand exploitation; and internet clips rights to all 380 matches per season. The Live packages will be available for exploitation on a technology-neutral basis.
February 9 was the first deadline for bids to be entered. The process will resume on Monday (February 12) while the result if all goes well is expected on Friday (February 16). In the event of the bidding process entering a second round, the outcome may only come on Tuesday (February 20). The final outcome may not be known until next week.
According to media reports, Sky Sports, holding the lion’s share of live rights since the Premier League began, is guaranteed to bid to retain the maximum five packages it is allowed to have.
BT Sport chief executive, Gavin Patterson, is reported as saying that it would bid to retain its rights. However, it had a Plan B ready even if it lost both its packages.
Last time out, in 2015, Sky had paid £4.176 billion to show 126 matches, including the first Friday evening games and both Sunday packages, and BT paid £960 million for 42 games. That was a 70% increase on the previous £3 billion deal. Sky is currently paying an average of £10.8 million per game and BT about £7.6 million per match.
Meanwhile, Amazon is reported to have held talks over the rights but is unlikely to bid for the most expensive packages, if at all it enters the bid process. Speculation is rife about Facebook, Twitter, and Netflix entering the fray. Facebook has made headlines for its unsuccessful $600 million (£456m) bid for the Indian Premier League digital rights last year.
The possibility of Google, Apple and several other mobile phone majors joining the bid process is also not ruled out.
Meanwhile, in spite of the British market being tapped out, there is still plenty of revenue opportunities for the Premier League abroad if Manchester United chief Ed Woodward’s latest remarks are to be believed. Woodward in his quarterly call to announce the club’s financial results had stated that “a word on broadcasting, reports of the death of live sport are greatly exaggerated. I just came from a Premier League meeting, where research shows that the league’s global cumulative audience has increased nine per cent year-by-year, with particularly strong increases in Asia and North America”. That clearly indicates a grand response for the Premier League rights for Asian and North American markets.