Football rights hit by ITV Digital collapse

LONDON - The collapse of ITV Digital and the financial woes of cable companies NTL and Telewest will dramatically affect the cost of TV soccer rights, claims a new report on the game in Europe.

The report, called the European Soccer Report, argues that out of the top five football leagues in Europe, at least three will have to negotiate the costs of rights in a market where there is only one bidder.

In the UK, this is likely to be BSkyB, which will be able to name its price with little or no competition from other broadcasters.

Last time, BSkyB bid for the rights to Premier League matches it paid £1.1bn for the live rights to 66 games over three seasons. However, then it was competing against NTL and ITV Digital, as well as the BBC and ITV.

Only last week, it picked up the pay-TV rights to screen Champions League matches after ITV beat out a bid by the BBC for the terrestrial rights. The whole deal was valued at £80m.

It is unlikely to bid anywhere near that figure when negotiations for the next season begin in the summer, now the threat of another broadcaster getting its hands on the matches has all but been removed.

However, it still faces the prospect of the Premier League launching its own football channel.

In Italy, the rights market has nosedived and the German market has also bottomed out, resulting in the bankruptcy of media giant Kirch and numerous clubs facing a bleak future.

In Spain, the sector looks close to collapsing, while the only market that may withstand the crash is France, where its top football league Le Championnat has managed to maintain high prices.

The report was combined by the business sports website.

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Claire Billings, recommends


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