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New season's pay-per-view explosion and variety of providers offers choice but threatens overkill
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If all the coming season's televised football were transmitted by a single channel and divided equally across the seven days of the week, coverage would start at 10am every morning and finish at midnight. To watch the whole lot – an average monthly output of some 420 hours covering live games and highlights from the Premiership, the Nationwide League and Conference, two domestic cups, two European club competitions, international matches and a smattering of overseas leagues – will cost you around £520 in subscription charges for the year, plus the cost of your television licence. Refreshments and the price of an occasional pay-per-view international tie or Uefa Cup game on away soil (screened by an obscure operator) will be extra.

For some pundits, notably the BBC's esteemed commentator, John Motson, all this smacks of overkill and could end with viewer apathy and a burst bubble. For the television companies, who have invested billions in the game, such a view is somewhat Luddite. They argue that we live in a multi-channel age and not a sepia-tinted world of broadcaster-controlled rationing. They say they are merely offering choice to consumers. There will certainly be a lot to choose from.

The most high-profile change to the schedules will the introduction of ITV's answer to Match of the Day. Hosted by Des Lynam at 7pm every Saturday evening, The Premiership will become the first regular prime-time football show on British television since the 1960s. ITV have paid £183m for Premier League highlights for three years and the channel estimates it will spend another £120m or thereabouts on production. The Premiership will be the flagship programme in a terrestrial ITV package that will also include an extended On The Ball at lunchtime on Saturdays, an extended results service, a late-night repeat of the main highlights programme and a Monday night debate show, The Premiership Parliament. Terrestrial ITV will also continue to show European Champions' League matches on Wednesdays (17 throughout the season), as well as some Nationwide League matches, which will vary from region to region, on Sundays. The cost of all this to the viewer, aside from arguments over the remote control, will be nothing.

A new digital ITV channel, ITV Sport, formerly OnDigital Sport, will require a fee, of £13.98 per month to be precise, for the basic £6.99 monthly subscription to the digital service plus the £6.99 monthly subscription to ITV Sport. The channel will continue to show Champions' League matches on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (40 throughout the season), but will also be the new home of the Nationwide League, as well as the Worthington Cup. One of the most fundamental changes to the football week will see Nationwide League football played on most Thursday, Friday and Sunday evenings. Twenty of the Friday games will be shown on a pay-per-view basis, as will 40 Premier League Sunday afternoon games. ITV Sport subscribers who pay £3 per month on top of their £13.98 will get all the pay-per-view games included. The price on a match-by-match basis will be £8.

For live Premier League football, Sky will remain the main broadcaster to watch, at 4pm on Sundays and 8pm on Mondays, as well as on Saturday and Sunday mornings when the fixture list dictates. There will also be 40 Premier League pay-per-view games at 2pm on Sunday afternoons (the same matches, in fact, that will be shown on ITV Sport). Those games will also be available on the two cable stations, ntl and Telewest. Sky will also be showing Leeds' and Chelsea's home games in this season's Uefa Cup (on Sky Sports Extra), as well as live FA Cup games on Fridays, Saturdays and/or Sundays (from the first round onwards), international home matches featuring England, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland, women's football, the Scottish Premier League, the Nationwide Conference and live action from Spain's La Liga and Germany's Bundesliga. To subscribe to Sky's five channels (Sports 1,2 and 3, Sports News and Sports Extra) costs £26 per month, plus £60 for a season ticket to all the pay-per-view Premier League matches.

The BBC will not be entirely bereft of live football, and Match of the Day will continue with FA Cup matches and competitive England international games played on home soil. The BBC will also show the Uefa Cup final next May (and possibly some of Aston Villa's or Newcastle's Uefa Cup games, should they qualify), as well as Scottish Premier League highlights in Scotland. Among football on other terrestrial channels will be Serie A from Italy on Channel 4, plus Dutch, Argentinian and various Uefa Cup and international action on Channel 5.

If you are happy with Premiership highlights, Champions' League on Wednesdays, a few live FA Cup matches and England home games, terrestrial ITV and BBC will suffice, and for free. If you are not concerned about live Premiership matches but want to follow the Nationwide League and the Champions' League in detail, ITV Sport looks good value at £16.98 a month (£204 a year). Add £3 a month for 40 Sunday Premier League pay-per-view games. Add £16 a month to subscribe to Sky Sports 1,2 and 3 (but not Sports Extra).

Alternatively, if you want Premiership matches but not Nationwide, go for Sky alone (£26 a month, or £312 a year, or £372 with pay-per-view thrown in). Or if you want it all, get Sky for £26 a month plus ITV Sport (with pay-per-view) for £16.98 a month, which works out at £43 a month, or £516 a year.

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