The next round of bidding for the next batch of Premier League football TV rights come up for grabs early next year.
City analysts predict that the rights could cost broadcasters as much as 50% more than the £3bn for the current three-year deal (£2.3bn paid by Sky paid for 116 games a season, plus £738m from BT for 38 matches a year), when the telecoms company’s surprise entry into the TV sports rights market pushed up the price substantially.
However, there may be a new player in town.
Vodafone’s reported interest in Virgin Media owner Liberty Global is the latest potential deal that could reshape the UK’s pay-TV providers. And they may do the same as BT Sport have done, and be prepared to make a large bid for some rights.
The problem for Sky, according to a media analyst, is that it will not be able to increase revenues by a similar amount to cover the additional expense if Premier League rights inflation continues with 2015’s new deal.
BT will also want to secure more than the 38 matches it won in the last auction at a cost of £738m over three years to help retain the broadband customers attracted by its BT Sport channels.
However, Sky needs to consider whether retaining the lion’s share of Premier League rights at any price makes economic sense. “It’s not entirely obvious what would happen if they only ended up with a few of the games,”. As Sky has the rights to many other sports, spending less on football could allow it to cut the cost of its sports packages.
BT has question marks over its service, and that it will have to start increasing its prices to cover the cost of the football rights.
Discovery, who own Channel Five may also be interested in bidding for some live Premier League rights, and can expect large viewing numbers for their free terrestrial coverage.