(Reuters) - Premier League matches could kick off as late as 7:45 p.m. from the 2019-20 season as part of plans to broadcast at least half of the 380 games live on television, according to a report in The Times.
The plan was proposed after broadcasters Sky reported that television viewership for league matches fell 14 percent last season while subscriptions to their mobile video service and online live video provider rose by 31 percent.
“As we anticipated, the way customers engage with live sport is changing, with strong growth in newer, digital-first platforms,” a Sky spokesman told The Times.
Supporters are likely to oppose the change as travelling to games will become harder compared to the current 3 p.m. kick-offs but the league’s growing international popularity is expected to provide incentive to showcase more matches.
“The Premier League is more popular than ever due to the fantastic football put on by clubs and the commitment of fans,” a spokesman for the league told The Times.
“In the season 2016-17 stadiums were a record 96.5 percent full, unique broadcasting reach in the UK was up 2 percent on the previous season and matches were available to watch in one billion homes in 188 countries.”
Broadcasters can submit their bids for domestic rights by the end of the year and the final decision is expected to be made in February.
Sky and BT Sport acquired domestic broadcasting rights worth 5.14 billion pounds ($6.52 billion) for three years in 2015.
($1 = 0.7880 pounds)
Reporting by Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford