For the first time, entire rounds of Premier League matches will be shown live under the next UK broadcast deal, Telegraph Sport can reveal.
The games will be broadcast in midweek and on Bank Holidays. Saturday night matches will also be up for grabs, pitching live football against the likes of Strictly Come Dancing and The X Factor in the battle for a share of the massive and lucrative weekend audience.
The world’s richest league on Thursday night issued the tender document for the television rights to its fixtures for the 2019-22 seasons, a copy of which has been seen by Telegraph Sport.
It can be revealed that the league will make 200 of its 380 matches a year available, 42 more than at present, with three rounds of midweek and one of Bank Holiday games accounting for all but two of the additional fixtures.
The 2019 season will also herald the advent of regular Saturday night Premier League football, with eight matches per season on offer under a three-year contract in which clubs are targeting an increase in the eye-watering £5.14 billion they secured from Sky Sports and BT Sport for the existing rights.
Premier League TV deal 2019-22 | The seven packages available
The 200 matches have been divided into seven packages, A to G, with the first five featuring traditional kick-off times and the eight Saturday 7.45pm games.
Package F contains all 20 games from one Bank Holiday and one midweek programme, with Package G containing all 20 from two midweek programmes.
Packages A and B each contain 32 matches at Saturday 12.30pm and 5.30pm, respectively; C contains 24 games at Sunday 2pm and eight at Saturday 7.45pm; D contains 32 matches at Sunday 4.30pm; and E contains 24 matches at Monday 8pm or Friday 7.30pm-8pm and eight at Sunday 2pm.
There are only three midweek rounds this season, falling at the end of November, mid-December and the end of January, with Bank Holiday rounds falling around Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.
The 20 top-flight clubs gave the go-ahead last month for league executives to include both single rounds of midweek games and Saturday night fixtures in the tender for an auction expected to be held in February.
That was among a range of options presented at its quarterly shareholders’ meeting, at which teams also allowed the executive to decide exactly how many games to put up for sale within a range of 190-210.
The league agreed to make at least half available following an investigation by Ofcom into how it sells its television rights.
Using most of the extra games up in entire midweek rounds has emerged as its preferred method of doing so, with executive chairman Richard Scudamore having ruled out additional Sunday slots.
The move also sees the Premier League follow the lead of the English Football League, which had already decided to include entire midweek rounds in its next broadcasting deal.
Uefa has long since allowed every Champions League and Europa League match to be shown on UK television.
Making entire weekend rounds of games available is all but impossible due to the 3pm blackout on live football being shown in the UK, which is seen as vital to protecting attendances for lower-league football.
The midweek matches should help the league wring even more cash out of its domestic broadcast partners, following 70 per cent hikes in each of the past two auctions.
Those were fuelled by bidding wars between Sky and BT, a repeat of which appears unlikely in the current climate.
Sky broke the bank last time by paying £4.2 billion to keep the lion’s share of matches, while BT was already starting to retreat, having succeeded in stemming its haemorrhaging of broadband customers to its arch-rival, one of its primary motives for entering the sports broadcasting arena.
Given that the Premier League remains committed to awarding its rights to more than one bidder, BT could get away with offering less than the £960 million it pays for two packages under the current contract.
It would take a bidder with as deep pockets as the league’s existing broadcast partners for either firm’s grip on the rights to come under threat, with speculation the likes of Amazon and Facebook may try to blow them out of the water.
Amazon, whose chief executive Jeff Bezos is worth £66 billion, beat Sky in the race for exclusive ATP tour tennis rights last August
But indications are that the internet giants, who could easily afford £5.14 billion, are still testing the water of live sport and the forthcoming auction for Premier League rights is too soon for them.