The new Premier League TV deal will be announced imminently and the final price could rise to €11billion
The final bidding process is underway for the next round of Premier League television rights, with 200 live games a season set to be screened between 2019 and 2022.
Bids for a variety of packages of matches must be in between 8am and 10am on Friday, with the auction set be extended to a second round of voting next week if successful offers are accepted sealed at the first attempt.
This process has tended to throw up a second round of voting in previous years, with the last round of Premier League rights finally selling for a staggering £5.1billion for a deal that is due to expire at the end of the 2018/19 season.
Sky spent £4.1billion on 126 games a season last time around, with main rival BT picking up the remaining 42 games for £960million, yet the former rivals now appear to be working in unison as this fresh round of bidding gets underway.
The threat of Facebook and Amazon entering the bidding and stealing away some of the prime Premier League television packages opened up the prospect of new entrants into this highly expensive market.
Manchester United CEO Ed Woodward is among those who have predicted Facebook and Amazon could get in the mix for Premier League TV rights, but the leaks emerging from negotiators suggest the newcomers to the market may not be ready to bid for major packages just yet.
There is an expectation that Amazon Prime will look to add to their recent acquisition of ATP tennis rights in the UK and Ireland by entering the fray to secure at least one Premier League TV package, but an intriguing deal between Sky and BT last December may have been designed to scupper Amazon’s efforts.
Sky and BT have been embroiled in a bitter war over recent years that is essentially a battle over broadband subscriptions, with BT Sport paying huge sums for Premier League, Champions League, rugby and cricket rights in a bid to undermine Sky’s efforts to take control of the UK's broadband market.
However, BT’s expensive assault on Sky’s Premier League monopoly has not produced the results they would have wanted and with both networks losing subscribers in a television landscape being badly affected by illegal internet streaming services, the duo formed a highly improbable alliance at the back end of 2017.
Under the deal, Sky gained access to BT Sport content, including Premier League, Champions League and Europa League football, which it can offer through a single Sky subscription.
Meanwhile BT set-top boxes will make Sky's Now TV service - which includes Sky Atlantic, Sky One, Sky Living, Sky Sports and Sky Cinema - available to its customers. BT will sell Now TV on Sky's behalf.
It was a significant thawing of relations between the former foes and it is not inconceivable that they are now working in tandem to ensure Amazon does not succeed in their efforts to acquire Premier League television rights.
What seems clear is that the lavish funds flowing into the coffers of Premier League clubs will continue for some time to come, even though BT Sport have hinted their desire to continue to pay out for a relatively modest set of games is waning.
As the Premier League auction for UK live rights 2019-2022 looms, the ri$e and ri$e of TV income. pic.twitter.com/YNf6oDMY5E— Nick Harris (@sportingintel) February 8, 2018
Asked earlier this month if BT Sport could succeed without showing Premier League matches, BT chief executive Gavin Patterson replied: "Yes, absolutely. I don’t want in any way to diminish the importance of the Premier League of course, but it is just one of a broad set of rights.
"We will be competitive but ultimately won’t go beyond the price it is worth to us. We have a Plan B."
BT Sport are believed to be keen to secure a new package of games that features all matches played mid-week and on bank holidays, with Sky determined to retain their dominance of Sunday football viewing and retain rights for their popular Monday Night Football show.
One of the packages offers 24 games at 2pm on Sundays and eight games at 7.45pm on Saturday evenings, with final figures on the new deal set to break new records for sports broadcasting in Europe once again.
All this before overseas and streaming rights are sold by the Premier League, which could take the final figure for the new deal close to £10billion.
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