The Premier League today announced it will make available 168 live games a season in its next TV rights auction – nearly 10 per cent more games than before – in a proposal that is almost certain to smash the £1bn-a-year sales record.
It is understood the package, which will run from the 2016-17 season for three years, will include regular Friday-night matches for the first time, but the traditional 3pm Saturday slot will be kept sacrosanct, with no live games on air at that time.
Sky and BT are set for another fierce scrap for the live games, which will be sold in five packages of 28 games and two packages of 14 games per season for the next three years. No single bidder can win more than five packages.
During the Premier League’s last auction in 2012, the football authorities increased the number of live games from 138 a season to 154 and the number of packages of games available from six to seven.
BT was a surprise entrant in the bidding, sending the total value of the auction soaring by 70 per cent to £3bn.
Sky paid £2.38bn for five packages of rights (116 games) over three years and BT paid £738m for two packages (38 games).
Analysts widely expect the bidding to exceed the £3bn mark, with some suggesting it could leap by more than £1bn if other surprise bidders enter.
Broadcasters Al-Jazeera and Discovery and websites such as Google’s YouTube have been rumoured as possible bidders in the past.
Regulator Ofcom launched an inquiry last month into whether the way Premier League TV rights are sold is anti-competitive, after a complaint from Virgin Media.
The Premier League has sent out an invitation to tender to broadcasters and websites, with the auction expected to conclude by February.