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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 April 2006, 21:49 GMT 22:49 UK
Football TV rights bids submitted
Cristiano Ronaldo (right) of Manchester United and Frank Lampard of Chelsea
BSkyB's current TV rights deal runs out in 2007
Broadcasters have submitted their bids for the rights to show Premier League football matches ahead of the deadline which expired on Thursday.

The winners of the six different match packages will be able to show matches for three years starting in 2007.

BSkyB currently has exclusive rights, but a deal between the Premier League and EU means other broadcasters get access to live Premiership coverage.

Last week Irish broadcaster Setanta said it would bid for two packages.

The pay-TV company, 40% owned by private equity group Benchmark Capital, said it would be interested in bidding at the "lower end of the scale".

Cable firm NTL, BT Group, and ITV has also been named as potential bidders.

'Greater choice'

Under the terms of the deal with the European Commission, BSkyB is not permitted to show all six packages. Each package is divided into 23 games.

The Commission had threatened to take legal action against the Premier League if it failed to agree new arrangements giving other broadcasters a slice of live TV coverage of matches.

The most likely outcome will be Sky with five packages and a pay company, probably Setanta, with one
Alan Flitcroft, Ernst & Young

European Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said the new system would provide football fans with "greater choice and better value".

The Commission has insisted that at least two broadcasters must have a "viable and meaningful" share of football TV rights in England to ensure viewers have more choice.

'Greater firepower'

However analysts believe BSkyB is still likely to take the majority of the six packages.

"On account of its greater firepower, and the unproven track records in content of other potential bidders such as NTL and BT, we expect BSkyB to win at least four of the six packages, with Setanta winning one or two packages," said Teather & Greenwood analyst Conor O'Shea.

And Alan Flitcroft, media partner at Ernst & Young, said: "The most likely outcome will be BSkyB with five packages and a pay company, probably Setanta, with one."

Mr Flitcroft said the three-year rights will bring a total of about 1.1bn, up about 10% from the last contract.

However, if the packages fail to achieve an undisclosed reserve, the process can go to a second round.

BSkyB owns the current packages of live matches running until 2007, under a 1.024bn ($1.77bn) deal agreed with the Premier League in 2003.

The satellite broadcaster has held the live rights to Premiership football in England since 1992, a position which has helped it become Britain's leading pay TV service.

Other rights, including mobile rights, television highlights packages, and overseas rights, will be determined separately.

Scottish deal

Meanwhile Setanta has announced that it has extended its deal to televise Scottish Premier League (SPL)games.

The SPL has agreed a Scottish record price for two-year extension of its present television deal, which will be worth 54.5m over four years.

The league originally agreed a 35m contract in 2004 to screen 38 live matches per season plus highlights packages until 2008.

The broadcaster will now screen 60 live games a season from next season, and has added a two-year extension to its deal until 2009-10.

Trevor East, Setanta's director of sport said: "This brings our investment in the SPL to 71m. We are delighted that we will be showcasing 60 top live games from next season."

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