Leeds Utd to kick off pay TV

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The Independent Online
Leeds United hopes to be the first football club to show matches on pay TV after clinching a production deal with a FT-SE 100 media company and starting negotiations with Cable & Wireless Communications and General Cable.

Confirming the deal, Chris Akers, the chairman of Caspian Group, which owns Leeds, said the media company plans to take a minority stake in the subscription channel he hopes to launch by the end of the year. He is in talks with CWC and General Cable over showing the new subscription channels on their Yorkshire cable networks.

He would not name the TV company that will partner Leeds in producing and marketing the channel, but analysts said Granada Group is the most likely partner because it plans to buy Yorkshire-Tyne Tees TV, covering the region where most Leeds fans are based. Carlton Communications, Pearson and United News & Media are also possible partners. None would comment.

The magazine-style channel will run for three hours every day and will be able to show live Leeds matches if the club qualifies for European competitions, re-runs of past league games and player profiles as well as advertising club merchandise.

Mr Akers, himself a former media analyst in the City, plans his new channel just as BSkyB starts its new four-year deal to show Premier League games.

Mr Akers said he views the plan as the beginning of a shift away from the League's pounds 670m contract with Rupert Murdoch's satellite company, a deal which runs until 2001.

"There is an acceptance that BSkyB has made money at the expense of the Premier League," he said. "Football has subsidised without question lesser sports and BSkyB as a whole. People are looking for a fairer split of revenues in the future."