LONDON, March 20 (Reuters) - The next deal for live television rights for the English Premier League could be pan-European rather than domestic, chief executive Richard Scudamore said on Tuesday.
For 20 years lucrative British deals with BSkyB's Sky Sports have helped the league become the most successful in world football and in 2009 the satellite broadcaster paid 1.6 billion pounds ($953.55 million) for the 2010-13 contract.
ESPN can also screen around 23 league games - a package previously owned by Irish broadcaster Setanta.
The last UK rights deal involved six packages of 23 matches with no one broadcaster being able to bid for all of them.
Sky has always been the most attractive partner for the Premier League, providing heaps of cash and award-winning coverage, but Scudamore hinted the next deal could bundle UK and continental European rights.
Qatar-based Al Jazeera has been tipped as a potential new entrant into the market after it began broadcasting French soccer.
The tender process will run through the next three months and could be impacted by a recent European Court of Justice (ECJ) decision that ruled against the Premier League and BSkyB.
"Loyalty counts in many senses but remember our current arrangements are regulated heavily and our packages are put out into the open market and we have to have an open tender," Scudamore told reporters at a sports industry event in London on Tuesday.
"Fundamentally our packages have to be issued on the open market, they have to be sold to the highest compliant bidder, and they have to be sold on a stand-alone basis.
"There's not a decision yet on whether or not we will make a domestic deal, one of the implications of the ECJ decision is we are still working on whether we might sell the rights on a pan-European basis."
The ECJ ruled against the Premier League and BSkyB in October after pub landlady Karen Murphy was convicted for showing matches live via a Greek network.
The ECJ found that it was not illegal to use foreign decoders to undercut the cost of a Sky package but last month Murphy's conviction was overturned by the High Court.
Scudamore also suggested the comments made by Premier League chairman Dave Richards last week when he said FIFA and UEFA had "stolen the game" from England could have damaged the reputation of the league.
"He's apologised sincerely, he's rung the people who - if he has offended - he knows he may have offended and he's dealt with it," Scudamore said.
"Clearly that's a reflection that he knows what he said was wrong and misguided. It doesn't reflect the Premier League's views. He's away on foreign shores.
"It detracts from him, it detracts from the Premier League's image, I suppose."