Clubs mulling number of live Premier League games in UK
Premier League soccer clubs will be presented with three options offering different levels of live coverage in the UK in the next broadcasting rights cycle, it has been reported.
The English top flight is already committed to increasing the number of matches that can be shown live in the domestic market from 168 to at least 190 per season for the three years starting with the 2019-20 campaign.
A decision on the exact number is set to made at a meeting of club chairmen next week, with the options being 190, 200 or 210 of the total of 380, according to the UK’s Times newspaper.
Depending on the number of matches made available, the stakeholders will also consider a new kick-off slot on Saturday evenings, and simultaneous live games on certain occasions.
However, it is thought there is consensus to retain the blackout of matches between 2.45pm and 5.15pm on Saturdays in the UK, which is enforced to protect attendance levels.
The tender is expected to be issued to broadcasters before the end of the year, with the rights scheduled to be awarded in February.
The Premier League pledged to increase the number of live matches in the UK following an investigation conducted by Ofcom, the UK’s media regulator, based on a complaint by pay-TV operator Virgin Media, that little more than 40 per cent of the matches played each season can be shown live in the country.
However, the watchdog did not press for all Premier League matches to be broadcast live, as is the case in foreign markets, acknowledging the preference among match-going fans for fixtures kicking off at 3pm on Saturdays.
At present, pay-TV operator Sky shows 126 live games per season and BT Sport 42 games per season in deals worth a total of £5.14 billion ($6.7 billion) over three years.
The bigger clubs will be all the more eager for an increase in the value of the domestic contract after the Premier League dropped a proposal to end the equal distribution of money from international rights fees.
The clubs had been discussing a plan, put forward by league executive chairman Richard Scudamore, for 35 per cent of the international TV money in the next cycle to be distributed according to ‘merit’, namely where clubs finish in the final league.
The proposal was a response to pressure from the six richest clubs - Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea - which wanted the distribution to reflect their appeal.
However, it was shelved last month with the league saying it had “become clear there is currently no consensus for change.”
At least 14 clubs must give their backing for any changes to Premier League rules.