Ed Woodward 'welcomes' digital interest in Premier League rights

Woodward 'welcomes' interest in PL rights
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Manchester United's executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward says that the club would welcome the likes of Facebook and Amazon bidding for the rights to the Premier League.

Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has said that the club would "welcome" the likes of Facebook and Amazon entering the bidding for the rights to show Premier League games in the UK.

The UK broadcast rights for the league are currently shared jointly by Sky and BT, but there is growing speculation that digital services such as Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google could enter the bidding for the next set of rights, which come up for auction later this year.

Sky and BT paid a combined £5.14 billion for the current set of rights, which allow them to show 168 games a season between them, but that price is expected to rocket for the rights for 2019-22, with the league planning to increase the number of games available in the UK to at least 190 a year.

Amazon has already nabbed the UK rights to ATP tennis matches from Sky, while Facebook recently had a bid of £440m turned down for the rights to screen the Indian Premier League.

"Absolutely I think they will enter the mix, anecdotally there was incredibly strong interest in the last cycle," Woodward told United investors. "We are hearing that around the Premier League table and we are also hearing that from a European perspective in terms of interest in the Champions League and Europa rights.

"In the wider picture you have to look at what is happening elsewhere. There are not any clear European sales to these kind of partners at the moment. But look at the interest that Facebook and Amazon had in the bid for the IPL rights, it sounded like very big numbers for the Indian cricket.

"Secondly, Amazon have taken over Thursday-night streaming from Twitter for NFL. Thirdly, the MLS deal with Facebook is to broadcast 22 games a season.

"So I do think we are going to see an increasing engagement from these and we would welcome the interest. It's going to be increasingly important to digitally engage with fans and we think we can be complementary to partners like this."

The auction is expected to conclude by February.

A general view of Old Trafford is seen prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Aston Villa at Old Trafford on April 4, 2015
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