Premier League clubs give backing to more live games
The chairmen of clubs in English soccer’s elite Premier League have voted unanimously in favour of a new broadcast tender under which a minimum of 190 live matches per season will be shown live in the UK from 2019-20 onwards.
The domestic rights for the next three-year cycle are set to go out to market before Christmas, with the rights expected to be awarded in February, and the increase in live games, from 168 at present, should ensure a healthy rise in income.
However, it has yet to be established whether the packages on offer will comprise 190, 200 or 210 matches per season, which were the reported options.
At present, pay-TV operator Sky shows 126 live games per season and rival BT Sport 42 games per season in deals worth a total of £5.14 billion ($6.78 billion) over three years that expire at the end of next season.
At their meeting in London yesterday, the 20 club chairmen were rubber-stamping a commitment made by the Premier League to Ofcom, the UK’s media regulator, to ensure that at least half of the 380 games per season will be broadcast live in the UK in future.
This pledge followed an Ofcom investigation, based on a complaint by pay-TV operator Virgin Media, that little more than 40 per cent of the matches each season can be shown live in the country.
The Premier League stakeholders have been considering 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 across the leagues.
Ofcom did not press for all Premier League games to be shown live, as is the case in foreign markets, acknowledging the preference among match-going fans for fixtures kicking off at 3pm on Saturdays.
When international rights are factored in, the Premier League’s broadcasting deals in the 2016-19 cycle are worth around £8.3 billion, helping to ensure England’s top clubs are among the richest in Europe.
However, efforts by the ‘big six’ of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur to secure a larger share of foreign rights revenue proved unsuccessful, with a plan for 35 per cent of the money to be distributed according to ‘merit’, namely where clubs finish in the league, dropped last month because of a lack of support.
At least 14 clubs must give their backing for any changes to Premier League rules.