BSkyB's bid was handed over late last night, after last-minute consultations by telephone between BSkyB's chief executive, Sam Chisholm, and Mr Murdoch. The two men made a final decision on the amount of the bid, which included the option of a cheeky low-ball offer.
MAI, which had kept its plans highly secret, is now known to be bidding on its own, offering between pounds 150m and pounds 200m a year over 10 years. Mirror/Carlton was also thought to be offering as much as pounds 1bn over five years for the exclusive live-broadcast rights.
The 20 club chairmen were due to gather in Coventry this morning to review the offers, and could pick a winner as early as tomorrow.
The current contract with BSkyB, which expires next year, was worth about pounds 60m a year to the Premier League. But the runaway success of top football, and the prospect of billions of pounds from the broadcast of matches on a pay-per-view basis in a few years, have together boosted the price-tag for the exclusive rights - probably by a factor of three. "We always knew the price was going to go through the roof," said one leading media analyst yesterday.
BSkyB was still given the edge last night, thanks to its four-year record of broadcasting Premier League matches and its deep pockets. Both MAI and Mirror/Carlton plan to broadcast the matches on cable and satellite.The top clubs prefer a short-term contract of no more than three years. They want to reserve the right to renegotiate once digital TV is introduced in the UK, providing the scale for pay-per-view.
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