By Jonathan Copping, Lawyer, Stone King, London, UK
The English Premier League has sold its UK TV broadcasting rights for £4.46bn for the three seasons 2019-2022.
The sale is £500m less than Sky and BT paid for the previous three seasons’ record rights package; however, it should be noted that only five of the seven packages have been sold so far. The League has confirmed that interest remains from multiple bidders for the two remaining packages.
Sky has purchased the rights to show 128 League matches a season from 2019. Sky has purchased the much anticipated ‘Saturday evening’ slot, with eight games being shown at 19:45 on a Saturday evening, putting the League in direct competition with traditional Saturday night entertainment offered by other broadcasters. Additionally, Sky has purchased the 5:30pm Saturday slot; 4:30pm Sunday slot; the Monday evening/ Friday evening slot; and the 2:00pm Sunday evening slot.
Sky’s success in the auction has seen it purchase the most sought-after packages and allows Sky to have the first pick of games for every weekend. In total, Sky paid £3.6bn across the three seasons, working out at £9.3m per game, a figure significantly less than the £11m per game, that Sky paid last time.
Separately, BT paid £885m across the three seasons for only one package: the Saturday lunchtime (12:30pm) games. This package allows BT to show 32 games a season and is costing BT £9.2m per game, a large increase on the £7.6m that BT paid last time.
The two unsold packages are package F, which comprises all 20 games from one Bank Holiday and one midweek fixture programme and package G, which comprises all 20 games from two midweek fixture programmes.
It is not possible for Sky to purchase both unsold packages because no single broadcaster can show more than 148 live games per season.
There is a possibility, according to a number of reports, that the English Premier League could merge the two remaining packages to create a ‘super pack’ of 40 live matches a season, as well as allowing the successful bidder to show catch-up content and clip rights on match days.
The difficulty that the League has in selling the remaining packages is the limited life span of them. Whereas the packages, that have been sold, offer coverage throughout the whole season; the remaining packages offer limited coverage over a very short space of time, i.e. a Bank Holiday weekend and three midweek fixtures programmes.
With Sky unable to purchase both unsold packages, it will be interesting to see whether a new broadcaster decides to enter the fray and try to break the current duopoly held by Sky and BT.
Jonathan Copping may be contacted by e-mail at ‘JonathanCopping@stoneking.co.uk’