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U.K. Bids for English Premier League TV Rights Go Into Second Round

British Soccer BSkyB - P 2012
Dean Moutaropoulos/Getty Images

Long-time incumbent BSkyB and Walt Disney's ESPN currently hold the rights to matches in the soccer league.

LONDON – Bidding for U.K. TV rights to English Premier League soccer games has gone into a second round, industry sources said Tuesday.

Long-time incumbent BSkyB and Walt Disney's ESPN, which has held the rights to 23 games per season since 2009, are both expected to submit second-round bids on Wednesday. It wasn't clear if other parties were also in the running.

One TV industry observer said the need for a second round could be due to a number of reasons - from a third or even a fourth bidder to offers that were too close to make a quick decision or the lack of bids that satisfied a potential minimum price sought by the league.

The Guardian quoted sources as indicating that a new bidder, thought to be Al-Jazeera, may have joined first-round bids and caused a second round. Al-Jazeera previously bought soccer rights in France, but some U.K. analysts have questioned whether the Arabic network would bid for rights elsewhere before a proper test run in France.

Representatives for BSkyB and ESPN declined to comment to comment on the process or its participants as did the English Premier League. Al-Jazeera couldn’t be reached for comment.

One source said that a final decision could come later on Wednesday unless another round is deemed necessary. First-round bids were due on Friday.

Most observers have predicted the rights to be divided up between pay TV giant BSkyB and ESPN.

The blind auction is expected to raise £2 billion ($3.1 billion)-plus for the league whose biggest growth driver in recent years have been TV rights deals outside the U.K. The rights, which start with the 2013-14 British soccer season, are being offered in seven packages that cover a total of 154 matches. A single company can only own a maximum of 116 matches or five games packages per season.

Investors in BSkyB, which has held most of the English soccer rights for two decades, are closely following the outcome as the soccer rights are seen as the crown jewels of the company.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai