Up for Auction, Sky Rights to Football

Article excerpt

Byline: MATT BORN

TELEVISION companies are expected to launch a bidding war for the rights to live Premiership football after the way was cleared to end Sky's monopoly yesterday.

In talks with the European Commission, the Premier League offered to change the way TV rights were sold for the seasons from 2007 to 2010.

The proposal would see Sky's allocation capped at 80 per cent of the 138 games broadcast live each season.

The move comes after the Commission threatened to sue the Premier League, saying it had breached competition laws in allowing the satellite broadcaster to have a monopoly over live football.

Although the details are sketchy, it is understood the plan is to sell five packages of 28 games, with no one broadcaster allowed more than four packages.

Competition commissioner Neelie Kroes, who had threat- ened to curtail talks if the League did not come up with concessions, welcomed the proposals as 'constructive', adding that they represented a significant move closer to an 'amicable result'.

He has promised to make a decision by Friday.

Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore said the discussions had been 'fruitful'.

If a deal is struck, it will signal the start of a long and costly battle for the television rights.

The major broadcasters, including the BBC, ITV and Five, would be sure to bid.

And the country's biggest cable company NTL - which recently announced a merger with Telewest - has already said it wants to broadcast up to 70 matches a season. It claimed it would offer games for as little as [pounds sterling]10 a month.

BSkyB, which paid [pounds sterling] 1.02billion in August 2003 for an exclusive deal to show all 138 live games each season, currently charges between [pounds sterling]34 and [pounds sterling]42. …