Premier League adds Friday nights to upcoming bidding round

BT's ad campaign for BT Sport

BT’s ad campaign for BT Sport

The English Premier League opened bidding for TV rights to the three seasons from 2016 by sending out its tender to broadcasters at the end of last week. The new tender adds 14 games per season to the number that can be televised, taking the total to 168 per season. 

One package will include up to 10 games to be played on Friday nights for the first time, adding to the live matches currently aired on Saturday lunchtimes and evenings, Sunday afternoons and Monday evenings.

There are no plans to open Saturday afternoon games to television.

The 168 games will be split into seven packages, including five of 28 matches and two of 14 matches. No single buyer will be allowed to buy the rights to more than five packages or 126 matches.

The rights, which will be awarded in February, are likely to be hotly contested by Sky and BT Sports. The former currently holds the rights to 116 live matches, with rights to 38 games held by BT, which also holds exclusive live rights to Champions League and Europa League matches. Discovery, owner of Eurosport, and Al Jazeera could also potentially emerge as rival bidders. Sky and BT together paid just over £3 billion (€3.8 billion) for the last set of Premier League rights, a figure that some analysts have estimated could grow by up to 50%.

The Premier League is also auctioning a free-to-air highlights package, currently held by the BBC, that is expected to be contested by commercial broadcaster ITV, which will lose its rights to Champions League matches from next season.

The Premier League’s sale of rights is currently under investigation by Ofcom, following a complaint by Virgin Media, which has said that fewer games are aired live in England than in other EU territories, while the price charged to subscribers is higher.