Premium TV renegotiates £65m online soccer deal

Premium TV, Europe’s largest broadband sports publisher, has persuaded the Football League to abandon a deal signed in 2000 under which PTV was to pay £65m for online rights relating to 76 leading football clubs.

PTV has already paid about £38m, but industry sources say that if the League had not agreed a new deal, PTV could have pulled the plug on the joint venture, FLPTV, with clubs probably losing millions of pounds in potential revenue.

PTV chief executive Rod Henwood calls the deal “a win-win for both parties” and also for fans, who are now guaranteed uninterrupted service. Henwood describes the original FLPTV deal (negotiated by previous management) as “uneconomic, unsustainable and unrealistic” , adding “clubs stood to lose millions of pounds if the Football League had not moved towards a common-sense contract.”

FLPTV will become wholly owned by the League, while PTV gets a three-year fee-based contract with FLPTV and commission on revenues.

FLPTV operates official websites for 76 clubs – including Premiership teams Birmingham City and Blackburn Rovers – and has internet and mobile rights for player interviews and match highlights.

Under the original deal, PTV promised guaranteed royalty payments of £65m over five years. In 2002, after strenuous negotiations, the Football League agreed to take a share of future profits instead.

Currently, some 2.2 million fans visit the official club websites every month, with another 70,000 broadband subscribers having access to match highlights through a deal with AOL.

Henwood is a well-known TV industry figure who worked on the launch of BSkyB, Fox Kids and production company Prism Entertainment. NTL Europe recruited him to head PTV in 2003, and he has since turned the operation around. Earlier this year, NTL Europe, which also owns 35 per cent of ITV News Channel, changed its name to PTV Inc.

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