UK pay-television broadcaster Sky has retained the bulk of live domestic rights to the English 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.
The Premier League announced yesterday (Tuesday) evening that incumbent rights-holders Sky, and pay-television rival BT Sport, had 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. Sky Sports has secured Packages B, C, D and E. Package B comprises 32 matches kicking off at 5.30pm on Saturdays, while Package C includes 24 matches kicking off at 2pm on Sundays, plus eight matches kicking off at 7.45pm on Saturdays.
Package D consists of 32 matches kicking off at 4.30pm on Sundays, while Package E has 24 matches kicking off at either 8pm on Mondays or 7.30pm-8pm on Fridays, plus eight matches kicking off at 2pm on Sundays.
With four packages of rights totalling 128 games per season, up from 126 matches currently, the deal will offer Sky Sports viewers every first-pick weekend match, plus Saturday evening fixtures for the first time.
Sky will pay £1.193bn per annum under the terms of the new deal, down £199m per annum, a 16 per cent cost reduction per game versus the current agreement. Sky will broadcast the main head to heads with every weekend ‘first pick’ and 14 ‘second picks’.
Stephen van Rooyen, Sky’s UK chief executive, said: “Our disciplined approach means we continue to have the flexibility to invest in each of these areas as we choose, underlining our position as Europe’s largest investor in content.”
BT Sport has acquired Package A - 32 matches kicking off at 12.30pm on Saturdays – with its rights costing £295m per season. While BT Sport has lost its current 5.30pm Saturday matches, and 10 games per season, its outlay per match increases from the current £7.6m to £9.2m.
In a statement, BT Sport’s parent company, telco BT, said it remained financially disciplined during the process and remains in a strong position to make a return on its investment through subscription, wholesale, commercial and advertising revenues, citing the acquisition of mobile network operator EE, which more than doubled BT’s customer base.
It also pointed to December’s landmark multi-year deal between BT and Sky which will make their 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 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.
The Premier League in December made a total of 200 live matches per season available through its tender document for the next cycle of domestic rights. The total figure represents an increase from the 168 matches per season currently broadcast live by 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 is being allowed to acquire more than 148 matches per season.
The total generated by the League for five of the seven packages highlights a fall in the value of the rights after increases of around 70 per cent in the previous two auctions. The 2015 right auction saw Sky and BT pay a record £5.14bn for their rights.
The Premier League is expecting a significant increase in the value of its international rights, however, and said there is 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.
Commenting on the deals with Sky and BT, Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore said: “To have achieved this investment with two packages of live rights remaining to sell is an outcome that is testament to the excellent football competition delivered by the clubs.
“It provides them with certainty and will underpin their continued efforts to put on the most compelling football, invest sustainably in all areas, and use their popularity and reach to have a positive impact on the sport and beyond.
“We will now continue the sales process to deliver the best possible outcome for the remaining packages of rights in the UK and throughout the rest of the world.”