BSkyB wins Premiership battle

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BSkyB, the satellite television group, has retained its exclusive stranglehold on live Premiership football after the European Commission failed in its attempt to force it to give up some matches to other broadcasters.

The pay television company has enjoyed a monopoly over live broadcasting of the sport since 1992, with the exception of some pay-per-view games, meaning that fans must subscribe to BSkyB to see live games.

Brussels forced the Premier League to break up its matches into four packages for television, for three years from next season, hoping at least one would go to another broadcaster.

BSkyB secured the lot in August, paying a total of £1bn for the four packages. Then, in December, the Commission announced that Sky must sell six or eight Saturday afternoon matches every season. Yesterday that strategy failed, too.

It was announced that no other television operator had bid enough for these games to meet a reserve price.

It is understood that ITV, five and Channel 4 all bid for the games. The BBC was unable to bid because of a technical requirement from BSkyB.

Industry sources said that these four broadcasters were deeply unhappy with the process of auctioning these games.

One insider said: "Sky have run rings around the European Commission - again." Rival broadcasters complained that they had submitted competitive bids and that they were never told what the reserve price was.

The Commission yesterday accepted defeat but made clear that it would not accept Sky's exclusive position when rights are next tendered - in 2007.

The Commission spokesman said: "... [we] believe the results of the tender only confirm the need for new arrangements for media rights to Premier League soccer."