SKY Sports looks set to win the race to continue to show live games across the Championship, EFL and Carabao Cup after it was named the “preferred bidder” for the UK rights.
Sky’s current deal is due to expire at the end of next season with the EFL inviting bids from broadcasters from the 2024-25 season.
The league had even suggested it could make every single game available for streaming across all three divisions and the Carabao Cup which would need an end to the UK 3pm Saturday ‘blackout’ rules on screening live football.
DAZN, Viaplay and BT Sport were all reportedly in the running for the rights with the possibility of free-to-air matches on either BBC, ITV or Channel 4 also floated.
But the EFL has now confirmed that it will enter into an exclusive month-long negotiating period with Sky Sports, leaving the long-time broadcast partner of the league in pole position to retain the rights.
What’s not clear is how many games will be shown, although it seems likely more matches than ever before will be screeened live.
Sky’s current five-year deal allows them to show 138 matches with full coverage and limited single-camera red button coverage of midweek Championship rounds.
Fans had been split on whether all matches should be available to stream with some excited about the prospect of always being able to see their team’s games on TV or online, but others fearing blanket availability could hit both EFL and non-league attendances.
DAZN had been reportedly keen on the streaming option of showing all 3pm Saturday games, but some broadcasting sources had raised doubts about the logistics and capabilities of covering and showing so many games all at the same time.
One option thought to being considered was for a number of broadcasters to split the rights with one streaming the 3pm kick-offs and other selecting key games to be shown in other time slots as Sky currently do.
But with Sky now named by the EFL as the preferred bidder it looks like the new deal will be exclusive to them. It would be a huge surprise if Sky don’t now go on to land the rights, but the big question is just how many matches will be shown.
The EFL said it had completed a “full and comprehensive” review of all the bids received for the rights before opting to enter into talks with Sky. It has declined to comment further.