Premier League TV rights – how do they work?

Martin Caparrotta
By Martin Caparrotta

With Setanta Sports seemingly fighting a losing battle against the economic downturn, what does it all mean for the distribution of the Premier League’s live UK television rights in the coming seasons?

At present, live Barclays Premier League TV rights are split into six packages, each consisting of 23 live matches. Therefore a total of 138 games from the league will be screened live on UK TV every season.

For the forthcoming 2009-10 season, BSkyB owns the rights for four of the six packages available, meaning that the British broadcaster will show 92 live matches next season.

The distribution of Live Premier League TV Rights

2009-10 season
– BSkyB will show 92 live EPL matches
– New ESPN channel will show 46 live games

From 2010-11 season until 2013
– BSkyB will show 115 live EPL matches
– New ESPN channel will show the remaining 23 live games

The remaining two packages of 46 games, that Setanta was forced to surrender after failing to come up with the cash, were snapped up this week by Disney-owned American broadcaster, ESPN.

ESPN, who currently broadcast two channels on UK satellite television, are expected to announce the launch of a new channel to screen the newly-acquired live matches, that consumers will be able to purchase on top of their current Sky TV subscription.

The American media company is also expected to look to broadcast their new channel on other TV platforms such as Virgin Media.

But after the conclusion of the 2009-10 season, Sky will tighten its grip on the live games after it emerged that the company has already won an auction for another 23 match package, bringing the total number of live games on Sky to a hefty 115. Meanwhile, ESPN will show the remaining 23 games on its newly branded channel from 2010-11.

Finally, whilst one might assume that Setanta’s demise is in Sky’s favour, it could in fact be bad news for Rupert Murdoch’s company. Industry regulators demand that there must be a direct competitor to Sky as no single broadcaster are able to own all six packages.

This deal was agreed in 2005 with the European Commission, when it was ruled that Premier League television rights must be split between more than one broadcaster.

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