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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 October 2005, 15:07 GMT 16:07 UK
Rival soccer rights bid 'planned'
Liverpool v Chelsea on 2 October
Sky's exclusive deal allows it to screen 138 Premiership games
Broadcaster ITV and cable company NTL have teamed up to bid for the rights to half the live Premier League matches, according to reports.

The two firms are willing to bid at least 170m ($298m) a year in the next auction - for the 2007 to 2010 seasons - the Guardian and Reuters reported.

European regulators are said to be keen to break BSkyB's exclusive grip on matches, which pays out 340m a year.

Last week, NTL agreed to buy fellow cable firm Telewest.

The Guardian said it had seen a letter outlining the groups' alliance which has been sent to the Premier League's 20 constituent clubs.

The European Commission is pushing for a provision that would block any one broadcaster from having more than 50% of the rights.

Brussels takes stand

However, this has met with fierce opposition from the Premier League which says the Commission's proposal is an unwarranted intervention in the marketplace.

In 2003, BSkyB managed to buy the all Premiership packages on offer in a 1bn deal. The broadcaster has won every auction of live Premiership coverage since the league was launched.

ITV and NTL reportedly plan to show most matches on a pay-TV channel, with the rest broadcast on one of ITV's free-to-air channels.

The Guardian reported that Charles Allen, chief executive of ITV, and Simon Duffy, chief executive of NTL, said that their proposals would not destroy the value of the TV franchise that has poured billions into Premier League football.

"We think this is a fantastic opportunity for the Premier League and its clubs and we are very keen to engage further with the FA Premier League to take this forward," the letter said.

ITV was unavailable for comment but NTL confirmed to the BBC that a letter had been sent to the Premier League.


In a separate deal, ITV and fellow broadcaster Channel 4 announced that they have joined the governing body behind Freeview.

The deal will give them a bigger stake in the digital TV platform.

ITV and Channel 4 will take a 20% stake in DTV Services Limited along with current shareholders BSkyB, National Grid Wireless and the BBC.

Independent Clubs urged to reject ITV and NTL's Premiership proposals - 1 hr ago
Reuters ITV, NTL team up for Premier League TV bid -source - 48 hrs ago
Guardian UnlimitedNTL and ITV join to break Sky's grip on Premiership - 54 hrs ago
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The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


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