BT Sport has won the rights to screen live games from a revamped Scottish League Cup in a four-year deal starting from the 2016/17 season.
The SPFL has announced a new format for the competition to coincide with the new TV deal, including competitive group football in July, a ground-breaking bonus point system, and the re-introduction of a winter break for Scottish football.
Taking effect from summer 2016, the new format will see eight groups of five teams play each other once each in a round-robin format across five July dates, starting on July 16.
New broadcast partner BT Sport will show six group stage games live, plus a further seven games from the knockout rounds, adding up to a total of 13 matches to be broadcast exclusively live between 2016/17 and 2019/20.
The four-year deal is thought to be in excess of £7.5m, more than double the current contract which the SPFL has with BBC Scotland.
SPFL Chief Executive Neil Doncaster said: “The new format of the Scottish League Cup marks an exciting new chapter for the competition and sees Scottish football leading the way with a number of innovations.
“Fans, the media and clubs alike have expressed a desire for competitive summer football which will be delivered from next July while the ground-breaking bonus point system should add incentive to teams and excitement for supporters.
“We are delighted to welcome BT Sport as our exclusive League Cup TV broadcast partner and to have their support for the new format.
“Our agreement with BT Sport delivers a huge increase in the number of games being shown live as well as providing increased competition prizemoney for clubs.
“The new format has also enabled the re-introduction of a winter break for Ladbrokes Premiership clubs.
“We are consulting with Ladbrokes Championship, League 1 and League 2 clubs to establish whether they also favour a winter break in their respective divisions.”
Whereas the BBC are understood to have paid around £900,000 a year for the right to show five matches, only four of which tend to be taken up, BT Sport have committed to screening 13 games live a season.
The broadcaster will select six from the groups, which will be played Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday between the July 16-30, subject to live broadcast selections, and seven from the remainder of the tournament, including both semi-finals and the final.
Simon Green, head of BT Sport, said: “BT Sport is thrilled to deepen its connection to Scottish football through this new long-term deal.
“Our team looks forward to bringing fans an exciting and innovative new competition from July 2016.
“Today’s agreement expands our summer programming line-up while also giving Scottish football fans an exciting new summer football competition.”
The new 80-game group stage will involve all 38 teams not involved in UEFA qualifiers plus winners of this season’s Highland League and Lowland League.
The group stage uses the traditional three points for a win and one point for a draw model however in another innovation all drawn matches will go straight to a penalty shoot-out whereby the winner of the penalty shoot-out will be awarded a bonus point, believed to be a first in world football.
The bonus point system is designed to create greater excitement around every match as well as providing more points variations to increase the number of meaningful games throughout the group stages.
The eight group winners and four best runners-up progress to the second round, when they are joined by the four UEFA qualifying clubs and the competition reverts to traditional knockout format.
BT Sport’s Scottish League Cup rights from next season adds to its impressive portfolio of live football, which includes SPFL Premiership and Championship matches, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and Premier League games.