In Depth

Match of the Day lives as BBC wins Premier League highlights

BBC pays £204m for football rights until 2019, but Lineker could moonlight on BT Sport

The BBC has retained the rights to show Premier League football highlights after it agreed a new three-year deal and ITV pulled out of the race. Match of the Day, which last year celebrated its 50th anniversary, has become a British sporting institution and the BBC has paid £204m to keep it on screens until the end of the 2018-19 season.

Announcing the deal, Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore said the show did a "fantastic job" and provided "high quality coverage and analysis for fans". Not everyone would agree with his sentiments, but his claim that the "UK highlights allow the competition to be viewed by the maximum number of fans across the country", is undeniable.

The BBC has also announced plans for a new midweek magazine football programme to complement Match of the Day, scheduled to be broadcast on BBC2 at 10pm. BBC director general Tony Hall declared himself delighted at the agreement struck with the Premier League. "Sport matters," he said. "It brings the nation together. It can break hearts and raise spirits... that's why it's fantastic news that we have kept the Premier League highlights."

Hall described Match of the Day as "a national treasure", and he will be relieved that the BBC didn't face a serious challenge from ITV. The commercial broadcaster had been rumoured to be planning a rival offer, but The Guardian reports that it "ultimately decided against bidding".

Although fans may gripe about Alan Shearer and Gary Lineker, the the BBC has never sunk as low as ITV did with Andy Townsend and his fabled 'tactics truck' over a decade ago.

ITV's only foray into Premier League highlights was back in 2001, when they secured a three-year deal worth £183m. The broadcaster poached Des Lynham to present the show, but it never took off the way ITV Sport hoped and since 2004 the BBC has monopolised Premier League highlights on free-to-air TV.

In that time Gary Lineker has become the face of Match of the Day and the Guardian reports that the BBC is in discussions with the former England striker  about a new deal, one that would also allow him to moonlight on BT Sport, which recently won the rights to show Champions League matches. Lineker was certainly in chipper mood as the BBC deal became public, tweeting: "Judging by the quite overwhelming reaction, you're as chuffed as we are with the news about @BBCMOTD . Thanks, your support means a lot."

The BBC and BT Sport appear to be the big winners from the latest round of football rights issues. BT Sport will broadcast live Champions League football from next season after paying £897m in a three-year deal, thrashed out in late 2013, which deprives Sky Sports and ITV of Europe's showpiece tournament.

The biggest loser is ITV. Its decision not to bid for the Premier League rights, after also losing the rights to the Champions League and FA Cup over the past 18 months, and parting ways with its main presenters, including Adrian Chiles, means its football coverage, which will only comprise England matches, is in danger of becoming mired in mid-table mediocrity.

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