Premier League to introduce live Friday night football from 2016
For the next TV rights deal, running from August 2016, the Premier League is to make 168 live matches available per season – 14 more than the current 154 – divided into five packages of 28 matches and two packages of 14 matches.
One of the packages will include up to 10 live games per season on a Friday night. Live matches are currently broadcast by BT and Sky on Saturday lunchtime and evenings, Sunday afternoons and Monday evenings. No single buyer will be allowed to acquire more than 126 matches, the Premier League said, as it published the tender document for the next TV rights auction on Friday afternoon.
The tender includes a separate free-to-air highlights package.
A separate sales process will take place for two other Premier League rights packages – a “near-live” long-form package of 212 games and an internet-based clips package. These packages are currently held by Sky and News UK, the publisher of the Sun, respectively.
The rights auction will take place next year, with the contracts likely to be awarded in February and the new deal running for three seasons from August 2016.
Currently the lion’s share of games is broadcast on Sky, which paid £2.3bn for 116 live matches a season in the three-year deal agreed in 2012. The rights to the other 38 games were bought by BT at a cost of £738m, making a total of £3.038bn.
The telecoms company-turned-pay-TV operator became the latest challenger to Sky’s dominance of live top-flight football, after Setanta then ESPN, and it later spent another £897m for exclusive live rights to the Champions League and Europa League, for three years from next season.
The opening up of live Friday night football means the Premier League is almost certain to top its money-spinning 2012 deal, expanding the percentage of its games broadcast live from 41% to 44%. Each game was worth £6.5m in the last rights sale, with an extra 14 games a season equating to a possible £90m a season or around £270m over the course of a three-year deal.
Sky and BT will go head-to-head for the rights but the cost of live games is likely to be pushed up further by interest from rival broadcasters such as Discovery – the US media company that now owns Eurosport – and the Qatar-backed al-Jazeera.
There has also been speculation that technology companies such as Apple and Google-backed YouTube could bid for digital rights. Some analysts believe the expected increased competition could increase the total value of the next live rights deal by 50% to £4.5bn.
Premier League chiefs are thought to have looked to Friday night because most weekend slots are already taken outside the sacrosanct 3pm kick-off time, along with Monday evenings.
However, opportunities for Friday night football are likely to be limited by top teams’ participation in European competitions during the week. Games will either have to feature teams not competing in Europe, or be broadcast during weeks where there is no European competition.