BSkyB ready to score soccer coup with £1.1bn Premier deal

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The Independent Online

BSkyB, the satellite television company backed by Rupert Murdoch, is this week expected to secure two key deals for the rights to broadcast British Premier League football.

It is understood that BSkyB is days away from renewing its £1.1bn contract with the Premier League to broadcast football on Sunday afternoons and Monday evenings. The Sky Sports channel will broadcast live a total of 66 football matches each season.

An announcement is expected to be made by the FA Premier League as early as Tuesday. The contract had also drew the attention of the BBC and ITV, which were unable to match the firepower of BSkyB, in which Mr Murdoch has a 40 per cent stake.

Well-placed sources revealed that BSkyB has also won the rights to screen around 40 additional Premier League Football matches on a pay-per-view basis. NTL, Telewest and OnDigital were also vying for the deal, but were outbid by BSkyB.

NTL was originally selected as the FA Premier League's preferred bidder for the three-season £328m contract last October

Talks between the cable television company and the FA Premier League broke down after a disagreement over the fine print. NTL had planned to give away a number of the matches as a marketing tool to tempt subscribers away from BSkyB. Securing football rights is seen as key in the battle between the cable and satellite customers.

BSkyB is the dominant player in the UK, with 5.3m direct- to-home customers. By 2010 the company hopes to have netted 8m subscribers, around one third of the UK households with televisions.

But the company faces increased competition from cable companies NTL and Telewest, which can offer bundled telephone and internet services and are trailing video-on-demand. Analysts believe OnDigital, which delivers its service via an aerial, is well placed to pick up the lower end pay-TV customers.