Back up the money trucks: the English Premier League (EPL) has announced its invitations to tender (ITT) for its UK audio-visual broadcasting rights for the 2016/17-2018/19 football seasons .

The rights are the most precious in the UK pay-TV arena, indeed in June 2012 the EPLsold the rights for seven TV packages for the 2013/14 to 2015/16 football seasons for an overall value of 3.018 billion. The rights issue saw the then BSkyB securing a package for 116 matches and BT entering the fray grabbing 38 live games. At the time the deal represented an increase of 1.25 billion on the previous broadcast settlement, which shares rights between BSkyB and ESPN.

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The new deal threatens to eclipse even this with Sky and BT expected to be joined by Discovery and most worryingly for the incumbents Al Jazeera in a bidding war for rights that have been significantly extended. Analysts are estimating that the new package could be worth $.5 billion in total.

The EPL is now inviting bids for live broadcasting rights to a total of 168 matches split into seven packages including afree-to-air highlights package; live rights consisting of five packages of 28 matches and two packages of 14 matches with no single buyer allowed to acquire more than 126 matches; a near live long-form package containing 212 matches, for linear and on-demand exploitation; an Internet-based clips package for all matches. Both the live and "near live" packages will be available for exploitation on a technology-neutral basis.

Even though the EPL will continue with its continued protection of the Saturday 3 p.m. "closed period", the new rights will see Premier League games broadcast for the first time on a Friday night thus allowing the scaling up of live games.