Bids for the second round of the auction for UK TV and digital rights to 154 Premier League games a season for three years from August 2013 are due in tomorrow (Wednesday), with a good chance that the winners will be announced later the same day.
The auction process has gone to a second round of bidding several times.
In the new auction, the total number of live matches going under the hammer is increasing from 138 to 154 games a season, with no single broadcaster allowed to have the rights to more than 116 games.
With ESPN thought to be uninterested in challenging BSkyB for the main share of live matches, sources believe that a second round of bidding has been forced by a new player.The Qatar-based broadcaster is known to have done significant work evaluating a bid.
Al-Jazeera Sports already has a foothold in the UK, using ITV Studios to produce English-language commentary for football matches, fronted by Gary Lineker, Ruud Gullit, Alan Shearer and Terry Venables, for expats throughout the Middle East on Al-Jazeera +3.
Al-Jazeera shocked French broadcasters last year, taking on Canal+ and winning live football rights including Euro 2012 and Euro 2016, Uefa Champions League football and the FA Cup. It launched a channel in France on 1 June.