What the Premier League TV deal means for you: key questions answered

Will subscriptions become cheaper? Will BT customers miss out? What will happen with the unsold packages? A guide to the new deal

How does the Premier League rights auction work?

The Premier League divides up 200 matches per season into seven packages for companies such as Sky, BT and (potentially) Amazon to place bids to air for three years from 2019 to 2022. These packages vary in quality, offering a mix of options such as highly coveted “first picks” of prime games, and different times and days of the week. Under law, no single bidder is allowed to buy more than five packs.

So what has happened?

The best five packs have been sold, with Sky taking four, for £3.57bn and a 14% discount on its current deal. BT secured only one of the prime packs, at £885m, down from its current £960m and for fewer games. There are two packs unsold; more on that below.

Sky and BT have struck better deals than last time so will subscriptions get cheaper for viewers?

Sadly not. The cut-throat battle between Sky and BT in recent years has seen eye-watering inflation of 70% at each of the past two auctions. The total rights have rocketed from £1.78bn for 2010-13 to £5.13bn last time. Sky has said that anything it saves, at this stage £200m annually, will go toward making and buying new shows such as Riviera and Fortitude. BT is facing a huge bill to roll out next-generation ultra-fast broadband, and has to address a ballooning pension deficit, and is happy to pocket the savings.

So if Sky has done so well what does that mean for BT?

BT believes its customers will not defect to Sky thanks to a groundbreaking content-sharing deal it struck with its rival that kicks in next year. The deal includes allowing customers to access all Premier League matches without having to buy separate subscriptions, until now a major reason why BT and Sky have had to fight tooth and nail for prime games. BT, with other rights such as Champions League football and English and European Cup rugby, believes it is a “viable second” player in sports broadcasting, negating the need for as many Premier League games.

What about those other two unsold packages?

The Premier League is desperate to lure a deep-pocketed Silicon Valley rival, such as Amazon, Facebook, YouTube or Netflix, to continue to drive up prices at each auction. This time round it structured two packages to try to lure one of them. Each allows the simulcasting of 20 games in the form of two full rounds of the Premier League. It hasn’t proved popular and the Premier League has not got the reserve price yet.

Why not?

Premier League rights are some of the most expensive in the world and the auction is UK-only. Players such as Amazon like multi-territory or global deals to make the economics work, which is how Netflix can afford to spend £100m on TV series such as The Crown. The Premier League is hugely popular globally and makes more than £3bn in rights from 80 separate deals. This makes it very difficult for a digital player such as Amazon, which has a cost-effective deal like that with the NFL as it is less popular globally.

So what happens next?

It is thought that the Premier League is trying to sweeten the deal by offering the rights to goal clips and near-live re-broadcast of games, currently held by Sky branded as Football First. They are usually auctioned separately later. The Premier League has multiple bidders still in play – BT is confirmed and Sky and Amazon are thought to be the others – and will hope to push the £4.46bn it has made so far closer to the £5.14bn total from last time.