NTL considering bid for live Premier League football

April 4, 2006

Cable giant NTL followed up its takeover deal of Virgin Mobile today by setting its sights on Premier League football rights.

Jim Mooney, chairman of NTL, said dozens of meetings had taken place about whether to bid for the right to screen a batch of live games from 2007-08, and the company had also been in touch with regulators.

The idea would be to make Premier League football a centrepiece of a new channel, which has a working title of Virgin Sports, and emulate BSkyB which used its 13-year monopoly to attract new subscribers.

Mr Mooney said: 'We are looking at Premier League football. I think the concept of Virgin Sports is one of the most exciting things that we can look forward to.'

Premier League officials last month committed to ensuring that no single broadcaster could buy the rights to all matches.

With seven years of discussions between the league and the European Commission having come to a head, broadcasters have been handed a deadline of April 27 to submit their bids.

League representatives have split the games into six packages - each boasting 23 games due to be screened at different kick-off times.

The waters are then muddied further, with each package-holder given varying powers to choose the cream of each weekend's matches via an intricate system of first, second, third and fourth picks.

Each package has been given sufficient weight to stop the heaviest bidder - BSkyB at the last auction - landing all the high-profile matches in any given week.

However, NTL chief executive Stephen Burch would not confirm that his cable company would definitely bid.

He said: 'We are so close to bid time that we frankly don't want to play our hand.'