US MEDIA group Discovery Communications has been named as another possible player, along with Sky and BT, eyeing up a bid in the ongoing multi-billion pound auction to screen Premier League football.
Last month the Premier League announced it had opened up bidding for seven packages of live broadcasting rights (totalling 168 matches) as well as a free-to-air highlights package spanning the 2016-17 to 2018-19 football seasons.
Both BT and Sky have confirmed they will bid in the auction, with BT looking to use sport to add broadband customers and Sky protecting its pay-TV business, in which prices are expected to rise at least 20 per cent from the £3bn paid in 2012 by the two firms.
Discovery recently acquired majority control of Eurosport and is increasingly playing a role in European sports auctions.
In June it made a failed bid for the rights to Italy’s Serie A football matches.
“While this might suggest greater price inflation, it may not be as negative for Sky as it first looks, although Discovery’s close links with Liberty Global (the owner of Virgin Media) do suggest some risk to Sky,” said Liberum analyst Ian Whittaker, adding that Discovery could offer Virgin Media favourable terms to broadcast the games. Discovery declined to comment on whether it will bid.