Dec 122014
 

The Premier League is understood to have offered a small number of matches on Friday nights to be broadcast live on TV from 2016.

It is thought up to ten matches will be broadcast at this unconventional time.

A total of 168 live matches will be offered to broadcasters each season for 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19, but no single bidder will be allowed more than 126 matches.

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.

Despite recent speculation following a official challenge from Virgin Media – which is currently being investigated by Ofcom – the Saturday 2:45pm and 5:15pm blackout to encourage fans to watch matches at the stadium will remain.

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Rights to top-flight games are currently shared between Sky (five packages – 116 games per season) and BT (two packages – 38 games per season).

The last deal was worth a combined total of £3.018 billion, and the new tender process is expected to be completed in February 2015.

Tender documents have also been made available for the free-to-air highlights packages.

Currently and traditionally, the BBC has held those rights and broadcast footage on Match of the Day.

However, ITV – who broadcast The Premiership for the 2001-02 season through to the 2003-04 season – is rumoured to be interested in regaining these rights.

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.

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.

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