Inside Lines: Sky and BT scrap over pick of the TV games

 

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The result of tense and at times tetchy negotiations between BSkyB and satellite newcomers BT over which Premier League matches are to be screened live will be revealed early this week.

Neither will comment on the complex selection process, but I understand discussions have been less than amicable, with Sky determined to protect their territory as the major broadcaster of football and BT, having invested heavily in marketing the sports channels that will be offered free to subscribers to their broadband service, keen to pluck some of the plum games involving leading clubs.

BT have gambled £738 million on securing rights to 38 live matches per season but Sky Sports will still screen 116 games under a deal worth more than £3 billion to Premier League clubs over the next three seasons. One of the key decisions for both organisations will be how to "frontload" their choices to start the season with the greatest impact, and here Sky will score heavily.

The last time such intense bartering took place it involved the ultimately doomed Setanta, whose bosses became so frustrated at Sky's apparent blocking tactics they complained to the Premier League. However, there is no doubt that BT, whose football coverage will be fronted by ex-BBC man Jake Humphrey when they launch early next month, believe they can pose a more serious threat than Setanta to Sky's dominance, with a wide portfolio of sports from rugby to tennis. Plus they have marquee names like the ubiquitous Clare Balding, who will present a weekly magazine show which head of sport, Simon Green, describes as their "flagship programme", and Rio Ferdinand, whose role is said to be that of "interviewer, programme maker and football expert".

As Green is also a director of burgeoning fight channel BoxNation, with whom there seems a natural marriage eventually, there's no doubt he's up for a scrap.

Knight is young

Should Andy Murray win Wimbledon today he will be odds-on to become sport's youngest knight at 26. After the OBE for his Olympic gold, a Bradley Wiggins-style upgrade after such a double triumph would make it a no-brainer in the current climate of celebrity hugging at Westminster.

Yet despite three consecutive Wimbledon victories in the mid-Thirties, Fred Perry remained unhonoured up to his death in 1995. Similarly, the royal tap on the shoulder also shamefully eluded England's World Cup-winning captain Bobby Moore. Odd that.

Floyd in the pink

Wimbledon does not have a monopoly on early bird queuing. In Houston, Texas last week fans started lining up at 3am for a lunchtime press conference in a theatre for Floyd Mayweather Jnr and fellow unbeaten champion Saul Alvarez, who meet on 14 September in a fight set to break all revenue records.

Some 10,000 jostled just to eavesdrop on the verbal exchanges between combatants whose mega-bout at the 17,000-capacity MGM Grand in Las Vegas sold out within 12 hours. Their 10-city promotional tour attracted a crowd of 32,000 in Alvarez's native Mexico City. The live gate, with ringside seats £1,350, will top £13 million. Some of these tickets are now on sale on websites for up to £14,000.

No wonder Mayweather calls himself the Money Man.

Too many bids?

Does Commonwealth Games host city Glasgow's shock elimination in last week's vote for the 2018 Youth Olympics, finishing well behind Colombia's Medellin and winner Buenos Aires, suggest Britain is over-stretching itself in bidding for so many top sporting events?

There is a feeling that too many have been coming this way on the back of London 2012, with 24 secured and a total of 70 targeted over the next five years. This has certainly helped elite sport do better than expected in a Spending Review which has guaranteed almost £500m in Lottery and Exchequer funds up to Rio 2016. But is such ambition costing international goodwill?

a.hubbard@independent.co.uk

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