Media: Lifeline - Premier League

Broadcasters can't afford to take their eyes of the ball in their battle for Premiership TV rights.

1992: BSkyB stumps up £60 million a year to secure the live TV rights to the new Premier League, which takes over from the old English League Division One in the 1992-93 season. The broadcaster turns Sky Sports into the UK's first subscription channel, and there is no shortage of takers for the service, which costs £5.99 a month.

1996: Sky's chief executive, Sam Chisholm (pictured), agrees to pay £670 million to retain the live football rights until 2001. This time around, Sky introduces pay per view on selected matches as it seeks to ratchet up the return on its increased investment.

2000: Having survived a 1999 Office of Fair Trading investigation into whether the exclusive deal between Sky and the Premiership was a cartel, the pair renew the deal. Sky now ups its payment to more than £330 million a season. ITV secures the highlights package, but schedules its programming ineffectively and loses viewers.

2003: The European Union now insists that the Premiership rights are divided into several packages to ensure competition. Sky makes a mockery of the whole process by bidding successfully for all four packages on offer. It pays the same amount of money - £1.1 billion across three seasons - but can now broadcast more live games (138) a season.

2005: ITV and ntl join forces to bid up to £170 million a season for half of the live Premiership rights following a change to the EU rules. ITV's chief executive, Charles Allen (pictured), insists the ITV/ntl joint venture will not damage the Premiership as a television franchise.

Fast forward ...

2007: ITV and ntl bungle their new opportunity and now open talks with Sky to sell back the contract. Ntl has failed to market its new property effectively. Even though ITV now has a handful of channels in its digital portfolio, it has still found it difficult to schedule Premiership football. The EU gives Sky special dispensation to bail out ITV and ntl.