Premiership offers 18-way TV split

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The Independent Online

Football's Premier League has split its TV rights into 18 parts in a bid to ensure as many broadcasters as possible have the chance to screen games.

The complicated arrangement, which will be unveiled tomorrow at a meeting of the Premier League chairmen, will confirm the League's intention to give media groups other than BSkyB the chance to film and distribute live games.

The League is hoping to generate £2bn through the sale of the three-year packages. Under the terms of its current contract, which expires at the end of next season, BSkyB paid £670m for the exclusive rights to broadcast four years of live Premiership football.

Richard Scudamore, the League's chief executive, will detail the proposals in a tender document drawn up after close consultation with the chairmen of the 20 Premier League teams. It is understood that the League's 360 games have been split up according to the days of the week, with interested parties able to bid for the right to broadcast games on a Sunday, or Monday or whenever.

Separate packages will be available for the right to show highlights on terrestrial television, the internet and dedicated club channels. Bidders will also be able to get the chance to show games on the lucrative pay-per-view basis.

Critics of Mr Scudamore's plan fear it will prompt rival bidders to organise an orderly carve-up of the packages. They believe the Premier League should offer exclusive rights to one bidder so as to provoke a competitive auction.

The document will contain concessions to clubs, like Manchester United, which have been demanding a larger share of the Premier League's spoils. However, the current system of sharing the League's TV money, whereby the cash is distributed in a roughly equal way, is expected to continue.

The Premier League wants games available to viewers regardless of the platform on which they watch. Apart from BSkyB, companies expected to lead the bidding are ONdigital, the other digital operator, and cable group NTL.