The Guardian’s Andrew Culf and Jane Martinson report that NTL — the cable and internet company with a history of missing appointments that makes Time Warner Cable of Manhattan seem reliable by comparison — hopes to secure the rights to top flight football. Or failing that, many matches featuring Everton.
Britain’s new cable giant is planning an audacious bid to undercut Sky by offering Premiership football subscription packages for as little as £10 a month.
The company to be formed by the merger of NTL and Telewest is planning to offer an estimated £200m a year for Premiership rights if the European Commission rules that no single broadcaster can bid for more than 50% of the games. In 2003 Sky paid £1.02bn for an exclusive three-year deal to televise all live Premiership games.
Simon Duffy, the new company’s chief executive-in-waiting, said yesterday that Sky had underpaid for football rights and a fairer auction would generate more cash for clubs and better value for supporters. He held out the prospect of some matches being shown live on free-to-air channels.
A bid from NTL depends on the Commission being successful in restructuring the auction’s rules. It is preparing legal action against the league for failing to take sufficient steps to stop Sky renewing its monopoly. In 2003 Sky won the rights to screen all 138 live games a season, despite an attempt by the Commission to introduce more competition. Sky outbid all other broadcasters for the four separate packages of matches.
Despite losing his job as England’s starting goalkeeper, David James has signed a contract extension with Manchester City through 2006-7.