An pounds 8 billion windfall could be shared among Premier League clubs from next year after Sky Sports broke the bank to retain its stranglehold on the right to show its matches.
For the second successive -broadcast rights auction, Sky and BT stunned the game by bankrolling a 70 per cent surge in the value of the UK contract, which will cost the warring media giants a combined pounds 5.136?billion between 2016 and 2019.In an astonishing increase on the existing pounds 3.018?billion deal, Sky was forced to pay pounds 4.176 billion to keep hold of the 126 maximum possible number of matches - almost double the pounds 2.28 billion it shelled out for a similar monopoly 21/2 years ago.
Of the seven packages up for auction, Sky again took five, with BT Sport securing the remaining two - totalling 42 games - at a cost of pounds 960 million, a far more modest increase on its existing pounds 738?million commitment. But its strategy of bidding big for all packages ensured that Sky had little choice but to smash the record for British TV rights, with the new mark coming close to the pounds 5.5?billion netted by the Premier League for all its rights for 2013-16.
That figure is now guaranteed to be far outstripped when international and other packages are sold this year - with the final total expected to exceed pounds 8 billion.
The new UK deal meant that each of the 168 games per season would cost an average of more than pounds 10 million, with Sky paying pounds 11 million per match and BT pounds 7.6 million.
The outcome was arguably even more stunning than BT's pounds 897 million capture of the Champions League and other European club football just over a year ago. That made Sky intent on keeping hold of the lion's share of Premier League football, particularly the coveted 4pm Sunday kick-off slot - "Super Sunday".
In the auction it was also awarded Sunday lunchtime, Saturday lunchtime and Friday and Monday night matches. BT Sport kept hold of midweek evening fixtures and swapped Saturday lunchtime for the more attractive Saturday evening spot. Sky also increased the number of first-picks it holds from 20 to 26, with BT's falling from 18 to 12, although it now has seven second-picks as well.
Richard Scudamore, Premier League chief executive, expressed surprise at an increase which he thought would be "impossible", despite the auction being designed to extract the maximum possible revenue for his clubs.
He also defended the outcome, insisting that the Premier League gave back more than its fair share and hailing it as one of Britain's best ever exports. "The Premier League, the BBC, the Queen: these are things that people feel are good about the UK," he said.
Even before the announcement yesterday, Ofcom was investigating a complaint from Virgin Media about the cost of Premier League television rights, which could yet force a rerun of the auction.