Broadcasters BT, Sky and others are battling for football supremacy as the deadline approaches for the rights of live TV coverage of English Premier League matches. As Sara Hemrajani reports, the total bids for the lucrative multi-year contract are expected to top £4 billion.
A battle of the broadcasters for the most-watched football league in the world. The deadline now upon us for the first round of bids for UK TV rights of English Premier League matches. Rivals Sky and BT are expected to be the main contenders, but Discovery's Eurosport and Al Jazeera may also be in the running. The last set of contracts in 2012 saw Sky and BT spend £3 billion on Premier League TV packages. This year that amount could top £4 billion for the 2016 to 2019 seasons. IG's Alastair McCaig says access to the sport is just too lucrative to pass up. SOUNDBITE: Alastair McCaig, Market Analyst, IG, saying (English): "This is of course part of a bigger plan for both of these businesses. Sky and BT both embarking on the quadplay, trying to ensure that they have TV, landline, broadband and mobile coverage, and this obviously is offering perfect content for those platforms." The selling arrangement had prompted an 11th-hour attempt by Virgin Media to delay this month's auction. The cable operator argued that the Premier League was in breach of competition law, since fewer matches were offered for live broadcast compared to some other leading European leagues. Virgin Media's request was rejected by the media regulator Ofcom but a full investigation is still underway. With international enthusiasm for the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal as strong as it is, TV companies are willing to splurge to get viewers. SOUNDBITE: Alastair McCaig, Market Analyst, IG, saying (English): "While there still is a lively marketplace for this product, I think we're likely to see these prices being paid. Ultimately this is a product that isn't just being consumed by the UK populus, or even the European populus, this is a global product with high viewing figures over in Asia as well." The real winners of this fierce competition are the Premier League clubs themselves. With the extra cash in their bank accounts, they're able to attract better players with even higher salaries.