London: England`s Premier League is due to announce a record new domestic television rights deal worth over £4 billion ($6.1 billion, 5.4 billion euros) after a ferocious bidding war for the 2016-2019 period.
BT ambitiously muscled in on what had been Sky`s exclusive territory in 2013 and the satellite giant could see its dominance eroded further amid reports of bids from America`s Discovery Network and Qatar`s beIN Sports.
Their battle cries are music to the ears of the Premier League. After a 77 percent explosion in the value of the rights three years ago, a further 50 percent increase has been predicted by British analysts.
That has brought the symbolic £4 billion threshold into view, to which must be added over £2 billion from overseas rights-holders.
Candidates had until last Friday to submit offers for various packages of matches, but with little to separate the bids, a second round of the auction was triggered.
The outcome was expected to be announced either later on Tuesday or on Wednesday.
When the rights were last up for grabs in 2012, Sky won five of the seven lots at a cost of £2.3 billion and currently broadcasts 116 of the 154 matches shown live per season in the United Kingdom.
Telecommunications firm BT secured the rights to 38 games per season for £738 million, helping to arrest the company`s decline in the era of the mobile phone.
The bidding process ensures that no single channel can broadcast more than 75 percent of the 168 matches under auction.
Experts believe Sky will retain the rights to 126 matches, with BT -- whose ambitious expansion plans are held in check by Britain`s telecoms regulator -- hoovering up the remaining 42.
However, any such arrangement could fall to pieces if a third party enters the dance.The sale price per match, which was already as high as £4.28 million prior to 2013, is expected to rise from £6.53 million to around £8 million.
The figures are a world away from the fee of £191 million paid in 1992 by Sky -- in which media magnate Rupert Murdoch holds a 39 percent stake -- for the rights over a five-year period, at a time when the English top flight was not yet a global heavyweight.
The new deal will make the Premier League, which is regularly watched by nearly three billion TV viewers in 170 countries, the second most profitable sports championship in the world behind America`s NFL.
Traditionally Britain`s go-to channel for live sport, Sky has unsurprisingly been perturbed by BT`s incursion into its domain, particularly as the two companies are also rivals in the TV and internet markets.
BT, which launched BT Sport in the middle of 2013, has already landed some heavy blows, having surpassed Sky in certain areas and established footholds in motorsport and rugby union.
Its pursuit of Sky has also seen it acquire exclusive rights to show the lucrative Champions League and the Europa League in a deal with European governing body UEFA worth £897 million.
But in the domestic market, BT needs to expand its offering in order to continue to attract new subscribers.
The race for rights to show live games has long been abandoned by terrestrial broadcaster BBC, which continues to show weekly highlights on its much-loved Match of the Day programme in a long-term £204 million deal.
A long-standing agreement between broadcasters and the football authorities means that matches taking place in the traditional Saturday afternoon time-slot cannot be shown live for fear of emptying stadiums.
But ever innovative in its pursuit of new revenue streams, the Premier League has proposed staging matches on Friday nights, which has hitherto been a no-go area for the English top flight.
The current TV rights deal meant that all 20 Premier League clubs featured in the 40 biggest earners in Europe in the most recent Deloitte Money League, but with ticket prices on the rise, many fans have been left feeling short-changed.