The BBC has announced that it will continue to screen Match of the Day for another four years.
The deal the broadcaster has just concluded with the Premier League will cost a reported £204 million, run until 2019 and will also include a new midweek magazine show.
It had been thought that the battle for Saturday night highlights would be closely fought with ITV, especially with the commercial channel dropping three of its main presenters in what was seen as a headline-garnering opening salvo.
But minutes before the BBC’s announcement, ITV made it known it was not “and never had been” interested in securing the Saturday night rights.
It’s also since become clear that the channel is not going to enter the fray for rights to show live Premiership matches – contracts which are now up for renegotiation. Some observers had suggested that the loss of live Champions League matches to BT from the end of this season had weakened ITV’s pursuit of the young male pound. And though there are live Premiership scraps up for grabs, an ITV source insisted they wouldn’t be involved. All of which means next season’s football portfolio will consist of European highlights and live England matches – not, perhaps, what new signing Mark Pougatch would have wished for.
BBC Director General Tony Hall said in a statement, “Sport matters. It brings the nation together. It can break hearts and raise spirits. And because it matters to the public, it also matters to the BBC.
“That’s why it’s fantastic news that we have kept the Premier League highlights.”
This afternoon’s news is a precursor to the real battle that’s about to get underway as the financial big guns of Sky and BT go head to head in the fight for rights to live Premiership football. The Premier League has put a total of 168 matches up for grabs, with no single broadcaster able to secure more than 126 games.