Premier League set for rights bonanza

The Premier League hopes to conclude the sale of its live British TV rights for 2010-13 by tomorrow evening and be in a position to announce that it has surpassed the £1.7bn it earned last time, which would be an astonishing achievement in the midst of a global recession. The League announced late on Tuesday that four of the six packages available from 2010 onwards have been sold to BSkyB, for a sum believed to be similar to the £1.3bn paid by the same broadcaster for the same rights last time.

Each package comprises 23 games per season, so Sky will continue to show 92 live league games per season until 2013. It was also announced the remaining two packages would go to a second round of bidding. At least two parties submitted bids, including Setanta, which currently holds the rights to those packages. The Disney-owned American sports network, ESPN, has said it would be interested in rights, but there was neither confirmation nor denial last night that it had also bid. The fact that the process went to a second round suggests at least two bidders were within 10 per cent of each other in value terms.

The auction rules dictate that bidders cannot resubmit offers until at least 48 hours have passed since the last round of bidding was concluded. In theory, new bids could come in late today, but a Premier League chairmen's meeting this afternoon is likely to divert the League's chief executive, Richard Scudamore, from concluding bid business until tomorrow.

Setanta paid £392m for its two packages last time. Under European Commission rules, no single broadcaster can hold more than five of the six packages on offer. Theoretically this means BSkyB could return to the fray for another package although there would appear to be little business sense in doing so.

When the sale of all rights is concluded, the League will confirm who paid what. The League wants to earn the same or more overall than the £2.7bn it pocketed for the years 2007-10 from live British rights (£1.7bn), overseas rights (£650m) and highlights and other media rights (the balance) combined.

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