Sky set to retain live Football League rights in £180m-a-year deal
Sky is set to retain the rights to the Football League in a blockbuster bidding battle with BT that has seen the price as much as double to £180m a season.
The Football League is understood to have entered into exclusive talks with Sky for the live rights, in a three to five-year deal worth between £500m and £900m.
The official announcement, which could come as soon as Wednesday, will scupper any hope that the recent years of inflationary bids for the crown jewels of sport might be at an end.
ITV is heavily tipped to win the Football League highlights rights from Channel 5.
It is understood that the Football League, which decided not to take up an automatic one-year extension with Sky, although the broadcaster still has two years left on its current deal, had been expected to make a decision last Friday.
However, it is understood that bids from BT and Sky extended the auction timeline, vindicating the Football League’s decision to take its rights to the market early.
The deal, which will be for three or five years, is crucial for Sky to win as it has just embarked on a new strategy of scrapping its numbered Sky Sports channels in favour of themed ones focused on specific sports – led by football, golf and cricket.
With two football channels, the flagship focusing on Premier League matches, to lose the Football League would have been a hammer blow.
Bosses at the Premier League will be rubbing their hands at the outcome of the bid, with Sky and BT set to go head to head in a potential £6bn battle for the UK’s most expensive sports rights at the end of the year.
Later this year, Sky and BT will face off again for the biggest prize of all when the Premier League rights come up for renewal in what could be a £6bn sports rights auction. The pair could be joined by Amazon, which earlier this month poached the UK rights to the ATP men’s tennis world tour