After years of extraordinary revenue growth, the Premier League has sold its latest package of live TV games to Sky and BT Sport for a reduced per-match rate.
The two media giants will pay a combined £4.46bn to televise 160 matches per season, between 2019/20 and 2021/22.
Three years ago, Sky and BT Sport paid a combined £5.14bn to cover 168 games per season, an astonishing 72 per cent rise on the previous auction. However, the latest auction results, revealed on Tuesday night, appear to signal the end of an era of super inflation, with broadcasters tightening their belts amid declining viewer figures.
Sky won the bidding for the vast majority of matches, securing packages B, C, D and E, equating to 128 games per season, including highly coveted kick-off slots such as Saturday evenings and Sunday late afternoons.
And for the first time, Sky will televise Premier League games on Saturday nights, with a 7.45pm kick off time.
Sky said it paid £1.19bn per season, "a 16 per cent cost reduction per game versus the current agreement."
Meanwhile, BT Sport won the rights to 32 Saturday lunchtime matches during each of the three Premier League campaigns, for which the company said it paid £295m per season.
Two further packages of matches are yet to be sold. These consist of 20 Bank holiday or midweek games each, per season.
"Not a great Premier League auction for BT Sport," said ShareScope's Phil Oakley, a former City analyst.
"It is getting fewer games, inferior time slot and no first picks. Also paying more per game. £9.2m vs £7.6m currently."
A spokesperson for BT said the company "remained financially disciplined during this process and remains in a strong position to make a return on this investment through subscription, wholesale, commercial and advertising revenues".
Sky boasted that it "remains the home of Premier League football".
Paolo Pescatore from CCS Insight said the auction produced a positive result for fans.
"This is great news for consumers as they will not be forced to sign up with another provider to watch football," he said. "It is already challenging to sign up to both BT Sports and Sky Sports, but had an online giant got involved that would have meant another billing relationship and destination".
"The Premier League will be looking at the final two packages as an opportunity to bring in the Amazons and Facebooks of the world, so that in the next round of bidding those companies can become serious contenders for the core packages."
Leaf added: "No one was expecting a full on assault from Amazon or Facebook this time, it's more a case of them testing the water. So if they pick up the remaining packages, that'll make things interesting next time around."