The English Premier League on
Thursday kicked off the auction for a new domestic television
deal which will be a test of whether pay TV operator BSkyB can
maintain its dominance of live coverage of football.
The Premier League, which enjoys the most lucrative
television deals in world football, gets 1.78 billion pounds for live rights under the current agreement which has
one more season to run. It is seeking a new three-year deal to
start from 2013/14.
There has been speculation that Qatar-based Al Jazeera might
seek to bid for rights after expanding aggressively in its
coverage of French football.
Under the current deal, BSkyB, part owned by Rupert
Murdoch's News Corp, shows 115 games per season and U.S. owned
ESPN a further 23.
The number of games shown live will rise to 154 - divided
into five p ackages of 26 matches and two blocks of 12. No one
buyer will be allowed to acquire more than 116 games in total.
Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore had said
that the rights could be offered on a pan-European basis after a
legal fight by an English pub landlady who undercut BSkyB by
showing games using a Greek television decoder.
However, the 20-team Premier League is seeking bids for
British rights only in invitations issued to prospective
purchasers on Thursday. The rights are expected to be awarded in
Once that is complete, the Premier League will turn its
attention towards renewing international agreements to show
games. Foreign deals earn the League an additional sum of more
than 1.3 billion pounds over the current three-year contract,
far more than other European rivals can earn abroad.
BSkyB has had the lion's share of live rights in Britain
since the Premier League was launched two decades ago and its
coverage has helped to fuel its expansion to more than 10
ESPN, a unit of Walt Disney Co, wants to increase its
Ross Hair, ESPN's managing director for Europe, the Middle
East and Africa, told The Guardian newspaper on Thursday that
his company would bid aggressively.
"We have a very specific outcome [in mind] - more games and
building the quality of those games," he was quoted as saying.
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