Sky 'in box seat to keep EFL rights'
Sky, the UK pay-television operator, is closing in on a deal to retain the live rights to English soccer’s second-tier English Football League, it has been reported.
The league has been out in the market seeking a buyer or buyers for its competitions for the 2019-20 season onwards, and has now entered exclusive talks with Sky, the main incumbent broadcaster, which has outbid rival BT Sport, according to the UK’s Guardian newspaper.
The deal, if and when confirmed, is thought likely to be worth between £500 million ($649 million) over three years and £900 million over five years.
On an annual basis, this would make it around double the cost of the present deal with Sky valued at £90 million per year.
Meanwhile, free-to-air commercial broadcaster ITV is said to be in pole position to win the highlights rights to the EFL presently held by rival Channel 5, in a deal that expires at the end of the current season.
The league has declined to confirm the report, telling Sportcal: "The EFL will not be making any comment on the sale of its domestic broadcasting rights until the tender process has been completed and the required approvals have been secured. There is no timeline or deadline in place to complete this."
The EFL was expected to benefit from the continuing competition for mainstream sports rights between Sky and BT Sport, which share live coverage of the top-tier Premier League.
Sky will have been eager to extend its long-running relationship with England’s lower divisions especially having recently launched a dedicated soccer channel, alongside a Premier League channel, as part of a revamp of its offering, which saw an end to numbered Sky Sports channels.
The EFL launched an invitation to tender at the end of June after deciding not to take up the option to prolong its deal with Sky by a further year. It has been reported that the process paves the way for the number of live matches from the Championship, League One and League Two divisions to treble, from 112 to 324 per season.
The tender also included all matches from the EFL Cup, to be sold separately from those to the three EFL divisions, available live, compared to just a selection from each round at present.
Sky recently saw off a challenge from BT Sport to retain the pay-TV rights to English cricket from 2020 to 2024, in a deal which combined with a contribution from the BBC, the UK’s public-service broadcaster, is worth £1.1 billion over five years.
However, the contests for the EFL and England and Wales Cricket Board rights will be only foretastes to the main battle later this year when the Premier League launches the invitation to tender for live rights from 2019-20 onwards.
Sky is presently paying £4.2 billion to show 126 games per season and BT Sport £960 million to show 42 games per season in three-year deals that run until 2018-19.
The Premier League season gets under way on Friday, a week after the EFL campaign kicked off.