Not long after Premier League chiefs agreed a record-equalling £5.1 billion deal with Sky Sports for the competition’s TV rights in England, the Football League are eyeing a similarly lucrative agreement.
Bids to show Championship, League One and League Two football are expected to be received from a number of firms – potentially bringing an end to Sky’s monopoly on EFL coverage.
BT Sport – who will be renamed TNT Sports to coincide with their partnership with Warner Bros and Discovery are expected to lead the bidding war against Sky, with streaming networks DAZN and Viaplay also thought to be interested in the rights.
The interest is so fierce that it’s likely to push the price of the media package up exponentially – it could take an offer as high as £200 million a year to win the battle, which is a near 100% mark-up on the previous £119 million package sold in 2018.
The insinuation is that the EFL TV rights are more appetising to broadcasters and viewers. Crazy, you might think, but as the Football League’s deal doubles in value, the cost of Premier League access has plateaued since the 2016 high of £5.1 billion.
So how have the rights to broadcast English football on TV ebbed and flowed in the past three decades?
Sky Sports (1992-97) – £304 Million
Top-flight football TV rights have been big business for a number of years, with ITV forking out more than £40 million for them back in the 1980s.
But that was considered to be small fry by clubs in what was then known as the First Division, and that’s partly why talks over a breakaway league – the Premier League as we know it today – started in the early 1990s.
There’s no doubt about it: the Premier League, which essentially became a rebrand of the First Division, was born out of greed but also a sense amongst those involved that terrestrial TV channels were grossly undervaluing how much the media rights were worth.
So EPL founders turned their backs on the established duo of ITV and the BBC, and instead formed an allegiance with Sky Sports, who agreed to pay more than £300 million in return for near-exclusivity of which matches would be shown and when.
This is where the proliferation of Sunday, Monday and even Friday night Premier League fixtures can be traced back to.
Sky Sports (1997-2001) – £670 Million
The initial five years of Premier League football on Sky Sports was considered a roaring success, and so all involved were keen to extend the deal.
There was competition from the terrestrial channels plus a mysterious partnership between the broadcaster Carlton and the Daily Mirror, but in the end it was Sky who once again won out thanks to a mammoth £670 million bid.
At this point, occasional Football League games were being shown on regional television, but the rights for these remained an afterthought at this point.
Sky Sports and NTL (2001-2007) – £1.1 Billion
The turn of the new millennium saw the Premier League TV rights deal smash the £1 billion mark for the first time, although things were a little different as the new package got underway in 2001.
The European Union were making grumblings about the ‘monopoly’ being operated by the Premier League and Sky, so proactively they agreed to hand out the rights to some matches to an alternative broadcaster.
But rather than choosing the BBC or ITV, they instead plumped for cable outfit NTL.
All was good, until NTL decided that they couldn’t afford to pay up. Their 40-game package was divvied up amongst other pay TV providers.
Disaster would strike for the EFL, too. They had signed a money-spinning £315 million deal with ITV Digital for the right to show lower league games, but unfortunately the broadcaster would go bust barely a year later.
Sky Sports and Setanta (2007-2013) – £1.7 Billion
You remember Setanta, right?
The Irish firm won two of the six available Premier League TV rights packages in 2007, with the total deal penned by Setanta and Sky Sports to share the coverage netting the EPL a cool £1.7 billion (2007-2011) and then £1.78 billion between 2011 and 2013 when the rights were renewed.
However, it wouldn’t be long before Setanta started to feel the pinch, and they too would go bankrupt in 2009. ESPN would step into the breach and take over their scheduled games.
There was good news for the EFL too, as they finally got their taste of the Sky Sports gravy train. Sky and the BBC agreed a £264 million deal to jointly broadcast lower league games.
Sky Sports and BT Sport (2013-2019) – £5.1 Billion
The next pretender to Sky Sports’ throne was BT Sport, and they have shown far more staying power than the likes of NTL, Setanta and ITV Digital before them.
BT and Sky agreed to share the Premier League TV rights, signing deals worth £3 billion in 2013 and an extension in 2016 for the handsome sum of £5.1 billion – that remains the most expensive contract for the coverage ever paid.
With the BBC dropping out of the EFL rights deal, Sky took on exclusivity for the second, third and fourth tiers of English football – a situation that remains in place to this day.
Sky Sports, BT Sport and Amazon Prime (2019-2025) – £5.1 Billion
Internet retail behemoth Amazon decided they fancied a slice of the pie in 2019.
The trio agreed to fork out a combined £4.5 billion for shared rights in 2019, which increased to £5.1 billion when an extension was penned three years later.
Until the end of the 2024/25 season, Sky Sports will show 128 live games, BT Sport 52 and Amazon Prime 20 per campaign.