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Branson Vs Murdoch as ntl bids for soccer rights [Update]

# 5 May 2006, 18:40 by Cable Forum

The Independent is reporting that ntl, where Sir Richard Branson is the biggest share holder, has made an aggressive bid for Premiership football rights against Rupert Murdoch’s BSkyB. However, in the first round of bidding, BSkyB has scooped half of the six available packages. The remaining three packages will now go to a second round of bidding.

The auction of the six packages of football matches is a three year deal – each with 23 matches a year, starting from 2007. The Premier League expected bids to be lodged by 2pm, 27th April 2006.

The Independent also reports that Free-to-air broadcaster Channel 4 has also put in a bid, as may the Irish pay-TV group Setanta. Elsewhere, BT and ITV have also been rumoured to be prospective bidders.

Sky is expected to bid for four or five packages, as under new auction rules, no single operator is allowed to retain all packages. The European Commission had threatened legal action against the Premier League, should it fail to give other broadcasters a share of the TV coverage of matches. The commission supposedly wants viewers to have more choice.

Sky might have to pay more this time round, compared to when they last emerged as clear winners of the soccer rights in 2003, a deal which was worth £1.024billion ($1.77billion). However, competitions was much weaker back then and Branson was not involved.

Update: ntl Telewest has failed to obtain any of the last remaining three packages. Instead, the Irish pay TV group, Setanta, has surprisingly managed to pick up two and Sky have successfully obtained a further fourth package. Sky’s monopoly over the screening of the football games has now been broken. This now means that from 2007 to 2010, Sky will broadcast 92 live matches and Setanta 46.

According to the Premier League, Sky paid £1.314 billion, whilst Setanta paid £392 million for the rights.

More related news @ The Independent, BBC News and Telegraph.

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