Newcastle look to share in Â£4.4bn Premier League TV rights windfall
Sky has maintained its position as the main broadcaster of live Premier League football after claiming four of the seven available packages of television rights for 2019-22, it has been announced.
The league's main partner since its inception in 1992, Sky picked up 128 games, including all the matches on Fridays, Sundays and Monday evenings.
BT claimed the other package to have been sold so far, switching from its current 5.30pm slot on Saturdays to 32 games at 12.30pm.
The two remaining packages of two full matchday programmes have not yet been bought, which means the auction will continue on Thursday.
In terms of how much money the league has brought in for its clubs, the five packages to have gone cost £4.464billion – which is just under £700million short of the total achieved in 2015, when 168 games were up for grabs.
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The figures will be of interest to Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley – who put the club up for sale in October – and would-be buyers, including Amanda Staveley.
With 40 more games a season still to be sold, the cost-per-game price is £9.3million, down from the current £10.2million.
After back-to-back increases of 70% in 2012 and 2015, this result will no doubt disappoint many within the football industry, but will come as a huge relief to the shareholders of BT and Sky.
It also suggests that the domestic market for live TV rights has topped out, particularly as the two main players now appear to have called a truce in their battle for customers.
The league and its clubs had hoped one of Silicon Valley's tech giants would enter the fray to continue the upward trajectory for the rights' values, but, as things stand, that has not materialised.
However, the league claims there are "multiple bidders" interested in the two remaining 'simulcast' packages.
In a statement, Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore said: "We are extremely pleased that BT and Sky continue to view the Premier League and our clubs as such an important part of their offering.
"Both broadcasters are fantastic partners for the Premier League and have a track record of making our competition available to fans across the country through their high-quality and innovative programming.
"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."
With no single bidder able to buy more than 148 of the 200 games a season, Sky can only bid for one of the two remaining 20-game packages. But it will be very content with its work so far, particularly as it has secured 15 first picks for games at 5.30pm on Saturdays and 19 at 4.30pm on Sundays.
Furthermore, Sky has bought the eight games in the new 7.45pm slot on Saturday evenings, as well as getting 24 games it can show either on Friday or Monday evenings and 32 games at 2pm on Sundays.
This will set the firm back £3.579billion over three years, nearly £200million less a season than they are paying now, or 16% less a game.
In a company statement, Sky UK chief executive Stephen van Rooyen highlighted the "disciplined approach" to investing in premium content, while the managing director of Sky Sports, Barney Francis, said its customers "will continue to enjoy unrivalled Premier League coverage through to 2022''.
Discipline was the watchword for BT, too, as it has committed to pay £885million for its 32-game Saturday afternoon package over the next three years, £75million less than it paid for its current offering of 42 games a season.
In its statement, BT Consumer chief executive Marc Allera said it was "delighted that our customers will be able to continue enjoying Saturday games on BT Sport".
Having paid £1.2billion to own midweek European club football, the telecoms giant had made it clear where its priorities lay and had even suggested it would walk away from Premier League football if the prices went too high.
That has not proved to be the case, though, and BT said it "will continue to engage with the Premier League regarding the remaining rights".
Considering its success in simultaneously broadcasting entire Champions League matchday programmes, BT must be considered the favourite for at least one of the two remaining packages. Whether Amazon, or any other new entrant will fight them for it, remains to be seen.
The overall result of this auction, however, will only sharpen the big clubs' interest in how the still-rising overseas broadcast rights should be divvied out. At present, they are shared but the Premier League's leading lights believe they deserve a bigger cut and that argument will inevitably arise again in the near future.