a fortnight remaining until bids are due in the multi-billion pound auction for the TV broadcast rights of three seasons of the most-watched football league in the world, BT, Sky and Discovery are preparing for battle.
Before Christmas the Premier League said 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. The deadline for bids is understood to be Friday 6 February.
Last week the chief executive of Discovery Communications, the US media group whose largest shareholder is Liberty Global chairman John Malone, reportedly met with Premier League bosses to detail Discovery’s plans to disrupt BT and Sky’s sport duopoly.
In September Discovery Networks International president Jean-Briac Perrette said on Discovery’s Premier League aspirations: “We’ll be looking at everything.”
“We’ll remain disciplined because we understand that the sports world is one where the price of entry is high, with big-ticket items. We have great relationships with our distributors and we think there are ways for us to do it in partnership with others.”
Last time the rights were auctioned BT and Sky together invested £3bn for their Premier League TV packages. This time bids are expected to top at least £4bn as the competition for the rights heats up with BT attempting to use sport to protect and grow its broadband business and Sky doing the same to protect its Pay-TV empire.
■ BT – In 2012 BT bid £738m to secure 38 Premier League matches each season for three years, including 18 first pick matches.
■ Sky – Last time the Pay-TV giant bid £2.28bn over the three-year contract to show 116 matches a season.
■ Discovery Communications – The new bidder in the mix, Discovery has been linked with making a bid for Premier League rights in order to boost its Eurosport platform.