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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 October 2005, 11:40 GMT 12:40 UK
NTL looks at Premiership rights
Liverpool v Chelsea on 2 October
Sky will show 138 Barclays Premiership games this season
The UK's new dominant cable company is ready to compete with Sky to win the next round of Premiership TV rights.

NTL sealed a $6bn (3.4bn) takeover of fellow cable firm Telewest on Monday and hopes to compete for the post-2007 rights when they are auctioned in 2006.

However, any bid will depend on an ongoing EU probe - into how packages are sold - deciding that no broadcaster can show more than 50% of live games.

Industry sources say NTL hopes to put together viewing deals of 10 a month.

Four packages

The new company is believed to be planning an offer of 200m a year, should the European Commission succeed in its proposed shake-up of how the Premiership rights are distributed.

The league has already said that in future no one broadcaster will own all the rights, but Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes wants to go further and impose the 50% ruling.

Sky owns the current packages of live matches running until 2007, and will show 138 live matches this season. It paid 1.02bn in 2003 for four separate packages, which, in effect gave it an exclusive deal.

The new NTL/Telewest company believes Sky underpaid for the rights and a redesigned auction process will generate more cash for clubs.

Free offer

The cable company's chief executive designate Simon Duffy said the amount of money going into the game had gone down, while the "amount of money people have to pay to watch Premiership games on TV has gone up".

Mr Duffy also believes the deal for the 2007-10 rights should also include live Premiership matches on free terrestrial channels.

The new firm would look to strike a deal with another company to broadcast these "free-to-view" games.

The European Commission has not yet taken formal action over any possible breaking of competition law by the Premier League.

However, it is preparing a formal "statement of objections" highlighting how it feels the current way TV deal are awarded - if left unchanged - would breach competition law.

A statement of objections can lead to financial penalties of up to one-tenth of a company's annual turnover worldwide.

Private equity

Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore has said the European proposals would "damage" its product.

Companies waiting to step in with offers for future televised packages - be they live games, delayed-broadcast matches or match highlights - could also include Setanta, the BBC and ITV.

A number of private equity firms are also closely watching the situation.

Sky has always said the matter of how the next TV deals are put up for sale is a matter for the European Commission and Premier League.




SEE ALSO:
NTL seals $6bn Telewest takeover
03 Oct 05 |  Business
Premier boss looks for TV support
26 Sep 05 |  Business
Scudamore reveals concern over TV
25 Sep 05 |  Football
EU closer to Premier League move
12 Sep 05 |  Business
EU tackles Premier League TV deals
17 Aug 05 |  Business
BSkyB 'facing TV football battle'
10 Jun 05 |  Business


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