The Premier League's £2bn-plus auction of live UK television rights has gone to a second round with sources indicating a new bidder, thought to be al-Jazeera, has entered the fray against incumbents BSkyB and ESPN, according to Thegaurdian.
With a good chance that the winners will be announced later the same day, bids for the second round of the auction for UK TV and digital rights to 154 Premier League games a season for three years from August 2013 are due in at lunchtime on Wednesday, That the auction process has gone to a second round of bidding is not unusual – this also occurred in the last rights auction in 2009.
In that case BSkyB secured the four main rights packages unchallenged in the first round of bidding and this was announced by the Premier League. The second round was for the two smaller packages, with Sky and Setanta securing one each.
The fact that BSkyB has been required to submit another bid in the new auction, with no news from the Premier League that there was a clear winner of any packages in the first round, has led to speculation that a potentially serious bid from a competitor has been submitted.
In the new auction the total number of live matches going under the hammer is increasing from 138 to 154 games a season, with no single broadcaster allowed to have the rights to more than 116 games.
If there are clear winning bids for all the TV packages after the second round the Premier League will announce the result quite swiftly, possibly Wednesday afternoon or by Thursday at the latest, unless a third round auction is required.
The Qatar-based broadcaster is known to have done significant work evaluating a bid.
Al-Jazeera Sports already has a foothold in the UK, using ITV Studios to produce English-language commentary for football matches, fronted by Gary Lineker, Ruud Gullit, Alan Shearer and Terry Venables, for expats throughout the Middle East on al-Jazeera +3. News sourced from http://www.guardian.co.uk.