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DIGITAL REVOLUTION : Premier League to have place of its own

The Premier League has been told it should start its own television channel in 2001 if it wants to extract as much money as possible from live football games.

A report by the League's media consultant, Oliver & Ohlbaum, told club chairmen this month that the pounds 670m they are receiving from BSkyB for the TV rights to the next four football seasons is only half of what their games are worth.

The consultancy says that BSkyB will make pounds 1.3bn from the TV rights and the league should become a broadcaster in its own right when the BSkyB deal ends in 2001.

The Premier League would have to contract out the making of the football programmes to an experienced production company, which television industry experts believe would be simple. The league would also have to lease space on a satellite to broadcast the games to subscribers or use the growing digital television spectrum that should be available by 2001.

The consultants estimate that it would cost the Premier League up to pounds 25m to set up its broadcasting service, but that this would be more than covered by cutting BSkyB out of the chain and the League taking all the broadcasting revenues itself.

A Premier League spokesman said it was too early to say whether the League would follow its consultant's advice. "This is just one possible option."