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Sunday, 14 April, 2002, 12:05 GMT 13:05 UK
ITV Digital 'set for reprieve'
Paul Gascoigne takes a corner for Burnley in a Nationwide league game
TV audiences have been poor for league games
Failed pay TV service ITV Digital is to be given one more week to strike a life-saving deal over football broadcasting rights, according to press reports.

ITV Digital's owners are likely to fund the ailing company for a further week while it pursues attempts to negotiate lower broadcast fees with the English Football League, the Sunday Telegraph said, citing sources close to both organisations.

The move is expected to be confirmed at a court hearing on 15 April.

ITV Digital, which is thought to have exhausted a 20m allowance provided by its owners when it went into administration on 27 March, would be forced into liquidation or sold without a further injection of cash.

Overpriced

The company is costing its owners - broadcasters Carlton Communications and Granada - about 1m a day.

The loss-making pay TV service's collapse last month came after the Football League refused to accept reduced payments for the right to broadcast its games over the next two years.

ITV Digital, which has signed up to an exclusive three-year deal with the League worth 315m, was reported last month to have offered to pay just 50m of the 178.5m still outstanding.

On Friday, the League turned down an increased 60m offer.

Football cash crunch

The Football League, which comprises 72 clubs competing in the lower English divisions, has warned that many of its members could go bust if ITV Digital does not honour its contract.

It has threatened to take legal action against Carlton and Granada if its contract with ITV Digital is terminated, although the two broadcasters deny liability.

Securing funding for another week would give ITV Digital time to continue the search for a compromise deal with the League.

The Sunday Telegraph said ITV Digital had tabled a further revised offer, citing sources close to its administrators Deloitte & Touche.

Struggle

ITV Digital, which broadcasts a digital signal through conventional TV antennae, failed to attract the anticipated number of subscribers, and was hit by a sharp downturn in advertising spending last year.

Audiences for its expensive Football League broadcasts failed to meet expectations.

ITV Digital was also dogged by patchy reception in some regions, and lost revenue due to the wide availability of pirated subscription cards.

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The BBC's Karen Hoggan
"It had paid too much for the rights to broadcast football league games"
See also:

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