Heavyweight UK pay-TV broadcaster Sky has struck a five-year record domestic rights extension with soccer’s second-tier English Football League (EFL) worth £935 million ($1.17 billion) in total.

The tie-up stretches from the start of 2024-25 to the conclusion of the 2028-29 campaign and will see Sky air over 1,000 matches per season, a record number for any club soccer media rights deal, the EFL has said.

Each season, 1,059 games across the various EFL competitions (three leagues, the playoffs, and two knockout cup competitions) will be shown exclusively, with £895 million due in rights payments and £40 million in marketing benefits over the course of the partnership.

The new agreement will see around a fourfold increase in the number of games to be covered live from English soccer’s lower tiers by Sky, which has held EFL rights since 2002.

It represents a 50% increase to the value of the current deal between Sky and the EFL, which was struck in September 2017 and runs between 2019 and the end of 2023-24.

The EFL put its domestic rights out to tender in February and announced Sky as the preferred bidder in early April. The soccer body had initially issued a request for proposals in October.

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Despite the increase in games available, there will still be a live coverage blackout between 2:45PM and 5:15PM on Saturdays, however, as has been the case at all levels of English professional soccer since the 1960s. All broadcast fixtures will, therefore, be aired outside of this slot.

The fixtures will either be shown via existing Sky Sports channels a Sky Sports streaming destination available on TV and mobile devices.

The EFL has said the streaming element “will effectively replace the current Sky Sports EFL red button coverage and the EFL’s domestic streaming option.”

In terms of how many fixtures from each competition will be shown per year, 328 will be made available from the second-tier Championship, 248 each from third-tier League One and fourth-tier League Two, all 15 playoff fixtures at the end of the regular season, all 93 games from the EFL Cup knockout competition, and all 127 games from the EFL Trophy competition. It will be the first time all EFL Cup and EFL Trophy games will be made available to fans.

Each weekend throughout the regular season, 10 fixtures will be shown from the EFL – five from the Championship and five split between the other two leagues.

With regard to other changes to the existing tie-up between Sky and the EFL, all opening day, final day, and midweek fixtures from the EFL will now be shown live, as will all fixtures shown on prominent English soccer occasions, such as Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.

The renewal means Sky retains its position as the broadcaster with domestic rights to the largest slice of English professional soccer. It also holds rights to 128 games each year (the most of any domestic broadcaster) from the top-tier Premier League through to the end of 2024-25.

Trevor Birch, the EFL”s chief executive, said: “This is a landmark broadcast deal for EFL clubs, establishing the League as a premium partner with a world-renowned broadcaster in Sky Sports.

“The EFL is an iconic sports property and one of the biggest and best-attended leagues in European soccer. This increased investment and coverage from Sky Sports will showcase much more of our compelling match action to fans while delivering record rights values as we seek to make our clubs sustainable at all levels."

Jonathan Licht, managing director at Sky Sports, added: “With four times as many matches than we currently offer, we will capture even more of the excitement created by this unique league – and in a way that will be immediately accessible to millions of supporters.

“This is the biggest deal in soccer, in terms of the number of matches being broadcast and we look forward to working with the EFL and its 72 member clubs to give fans the most entertaining viewing experience.

Before the announcement making Sky the preferred bidder, the EFL had reportedly been open to dealing with other major broadcasters such as global subscription streaming service DAZN, and European media heavyweight Viaplay.

In late March, it was revealed that DAZN had submitted a bid to show every game from the EFL live over the course of the next cycle.

When launching the tender process, the EFL said it was “seeking to evolve its rights offering for this latest cycle to provide additional revenues for EFL clubs alongside embracing innovation and reflecting changing audience habits.”

Along these lines, the EFL has now said that its new deal with Sky will see both parties “seeking opportunities to improve coverage and take viewers closer to the action, while the EFL will be investing significantly in production infrastructure.”

Image: Alex Lindsey/Getty Images