SAINTS’ earning power in the Premier League could be even greater than expected if they can secure promotion.
That is because of a mooted bidding war for the next set of domestic television rights, with Qatar-owned broadcaster Al Jazeera said to be considering a serious challenge to Sky’s dominance of the market.
The Premier League’s current three-year deal, which expires in 2013, is already worth £1.782 billion.
That is expected to rise even further if Al Jazeera attempt to extend their growing influence by mounting a bid when the new set of contracts are put out to tender.
Sky currently hold the rights to the vast majority of Premier League matches, with ESPN enjoying a minor foothold by screening 23 live games a season.
But Ross Hair, ESPN’s head for Europe, Middle East and Africa, believes Al Jazeera are planning to muscle in.
The broadcaster has already beaten Canal Plus to the French Ligue 1 rights and could now turn its attention to England.
“We’re expecting another Premier League auction in April or May,” Hair said this week. “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.
“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.”
Although they are no longer allowed to maintain a monopoly on live coverage, Sky’s dominance of the domestic rights market has gone largely unchallenged since the Premier League’s inception in 1992.
But Al Jazeera are believed to have the financial might to pose a serious threat, while computer and technology giants Apple are also rumoured to be interested.
That is good news for top-flight clubs, who would benefit from increased revenue if the next television deal trumps the current one.
Nigel Adkins’ team, who are on course for promotion this season, could share in the possible extra wealth if they can reach the Premier League and remain there for the start of the 2013/14 season.
They have extra financial incentive to escape the Championship this term too, with the Football League’s new television deal – which is worth significantly less than their current one – due to kick in next season.
At the moment, each Premier League club receives a flat fee of about £13.8m a season from the domestic rights money.
That is topped up by facility fees – money paid for being shown live, delayed coverage, highlights and so on.
Last season, the least amount that any Premier League club received from those was £5.8m.
Then there are the merit award payments for where each team finishes.
They ranged from £15.1m for winning the title, down to £756,756 for coming bottom last season.
If all that isn’t enough, each club also currently receives about £18m a year from the Premier League’s £1.4 billion overseas rights deal.
To put into context the gulf in earning power that Saints would enjoy in the top flight compared to the Championship, you only need to turn to Blackpool’s most recent financial figures.
The Seasiders’ income in the Premier League last season was £51.7m.
A year previously, when they were winning promotion from the Championship, it was just £9.4m.