Premier League’s technology-neutral soccer auction: how online rights shake out

English soccer viewers will get to watch live games in new ways from next summer, as the Premier League tees up its first “technology-neutral” rights auction.

The league on Wednesday awarded 2013/14, 2014/15 and 2015/16 live broadcast rights across all devices to BSkyB and BT. But near-live, on-demand and internet clips rights are due to be auctioned separately.

The outcome of the live rights auction is bad for ESPN, which built its entry to the UK on its previous rights win but whose games have effectively been pilfered by BT for its BT Vision hybrid DTT-IPTV service.

This second phase the league’s first technology-neutral auction, it also abolishes a package of UK mobile highlights rights, which ESPN has held for the last few years and exploits through its Goals mobile app. Goals will remain available at least for now.

Instead, highlights will be auctioned for internet generally regardless of mobile or other platform. Yahoo currently holds  non-mobile internet highlights rights.

But paidContent expects fast-growing online sports broadcast specialist Perform Group, which raised millions in a 2011 IPO, to show an interest in the new-look highlights package. If successful, it could license Premier League highlights to many other websites through its Omnisport player.

When asked, BSkyB, BT, ESPN and Perform all declined to say whether they are bidding for the near-live and internet highlights packages. Bids are confidential.

With its new live rights, BT said it will syndicate to other operators a channel it is creating to exploit its games, but best interactive experience will be reserved for those who take BT’s Infinity fibre broadband.

Sky will continue showing live games via Sky Sports not just to TVs but over mobiles, tablets and, increasingly, to internet-connected TVs.

The operator previously acquired the out-of-home Wi-Fi network service The Cloud to support mobile viewing and recently bought IPTV service Acetrax as a beachhead to internet TV. BSkyB is also preparing for this summer’s launch of Now TV, its new pay-TV brand for internet TVs, which is also expected to carry Sky Sports.

The Premier League told paidContent it would not disclose the timescale for the separate and outstanding auctions.

At £3.018 billion, the new winning live bids beat the previous ones by £1.254 billion.