Sky and BT likely to remain major players between 2019 and 2022
• Amazon could submit bid for one of less attractive packages
Facebook, Google and Netflix are not submitting bids for the next round of Premier League TV rights, with most analysts believing Sky and BT will remain the major players.
It had been thought the Silicon Valley tech giants could intervene and cause a price hike from the £5.1bn Sky and BT combined paid in 2015 but the Guardian understands they are not yet ready to get involved in live sport rights in the UK. It is thought Amazon, who have already demonstrated an appetite for live sporting rights, could submit a bid for one of the less attractive of the seven packages that went out to tender in September.
There is a slim chance all the deals could be finalised on Friday but it is more likely they will go to a second round of bidding, with an announcement expected early next week.
The bidding process, which covers 200 games a season between 2019 and 2022, is such a closely guarded process that most broadcasters are expected to submit their offers by hand, between 8am and 10am in London.
Three years ago many were aghast at the £5.1bn Sky and BT paid for the rights, which represented a 70% increase on the previous contract. Most experts expect the increase to be more modest this time, possibly only in line with inflation and dependent on how much the two broadcasters perceived the threat to be from the tech giants.
The competitive fires between Sky and BT were slightly cooled when they signed a cross-licensing deal in December, meaning BT can include Sky Sports in its television packages for customers and vice versa. Amazon is understood to be interested in one of the packages that offers two entire rounds of games, simultaneously, on midweek evenings and a bank holiday.
In 2015, Sky spent £4.1bn on 126 games a season last time around, with main rival BT picking up the remaining 42 games for £960m.
This time, the league has decided to offer 32 more games a season and experiment with new slots. One of the packages offers 24 games at 2pm on Sundays and eight games at 7.45pm on Saturdays, known as the prime-time slot.
Kieran Maguire, a football finance expert at the University of Liverpool, said that he did not believe the tech giants were ready to enter the market.
“That is just the Premier League talking up auction prices,” Maguire said. “It makes no sense for them to bid domestically as the UK is insignificant when looking at global strategy. There is some potential in overseas markets but there is still an issue of monetising subscribers – even Netflix hasn’t quite managed that yet.”