The English Premier League has issued a tender for the domestic broadcast rights to the next three league seasons, with Qatar’s Al Jazeera expected to be among the bidders.
The Premier League said 154 top-level football matches will be shown live on television in the UK during each season from 2013/2014 to 2015/2016.
Seven packages of screening rights will be on offer to broadcasters, five of which contain 26 games and two of which have 12. Individual buyers cannot bid for more than five packages or 116 games.
Currently, all domestic broadcast rights for the Premier League are held by Sky and ESPN, although it is widely expected that Al Jazeera will be involved in the bidding process this time around.
In February, a senior TV executive has hinted that the Qatari firm could challenge Sky for the rights to broadcast live Premier League football in the UK.
Ross Hair, ESPN's head of Europe, Middle East and Africa, said he believes Al Jazeera could challenge Sky for the next three-year contract.
"An Al Jazeera bid is a realistic prospect. They have done something very interesting in France in buying first division football against the incumbent satellite broadcaster Canal Plus and we've also looked at what they've done in other markets," he commented at the time.
"You can draw parallels with the upcoming auction in the UK. Al Jazeera have the ambition to grow further in sport and into other markets."
Al Jazeera beat Canal Plus to the French Ligue 1 and Champions League rights last year.
Qatar was catapulted onto the global football scene in December 2010 when it was chosen to host the World Cup in 2022 while its investment arm last year took control of the French Ligue 1 team Paris St Germain.
Hair said Premier League clubs could be set for another huge cash windfall if the "realistic prospect" of Al Jazeera challenging rival Sky for the UK television rights comes to pass.
The English Premier League is the world's richest football league and its last three-year television deal, which runs out next season, brought in US$5.4bn.
In Britain, Sky shows the lion's share of matches while ESPN broadcasts a lesser number of live matches and the BBC screens highlights.For all the latest business news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
Subscribe to Arabian Business' newsletter to receive the latest breaking news and business stories in Dubai,the UAE and the GCC straight to your inbox.