Simultaneous live games 'an option' in UK in next Premier League cycle
There is scope for two Premier League soccer matches to be broadcast live in the UK at the same time in the next rights cycle, it has been reported.
The league is in the process of preparing the tender for media rights from 2019-20 to 2021-22 and, given a commitment to increase the number of fixtures shown live, there could be simultaneous televised matches, according to the UK’s Times newspaper.
However, this would initially only apply to midweek and Bank Holiday games, Richard Scudamore, the executive chairman of the Premier League, said at a meeting with the Football Supporters’ Federation in London on Tuesday.
Simultaneous live games at the weekend would have the drawback of dividing viewers when TV audiences tend to be at their highest, while it is thought there is no plan to end the blackout of matches between 2.45pm and 5.15pm on Saturdays in the UK, which is enforced to protect attendance levels.
The tender for the next cycle is set to be launched in the coming weeks, although the packages have yet to be finalised.
The Premier League has pledged to increase the number of live matches in the UK from 168 to at least 190 per season, or half of the total of 380, with new kick-off slots a possibility.
This followed an investigation conducted by Ofcom, the UK’s media regulator, based on a complaint by pay-TV operator Virgin Media, that little more than 40 per cent of the matches played each season can be shown live in the country.
However, the watchdog did not press for all Premier League matches to be broadcast live, as is the case in foreign markets, acknowledging the preference among match-going fans for fixtures kicking off at 3pm on Saturdays.
At present, pay-TV operator Sky shows 126 live games per season and BT Sport 42 games per season in deals worth a total of £5.14 billion ($6.79 billion) over three years.
In other developments at the meeting with the FSF, Scudamore promised that there would not be a 4pm match this Christmas Eve, which falls on a Sunday.
There has not been a live Premier League fixture in the UK on 24 December since 1995 although Sky has the option of showing the Leicester City vs Manchester United and Arsenal vs Liverpool matches, presently scheduled for 23 December, on that date this year.
Supporters groups have called for these switches to be resisted because of the travel issues for away fans on the day before Christmas.