FA starts bidding for Premiership TV rights

The FA Premier League has begun formally courting media companies to tender for television rights – the first available since the European Commission forced the league to break its exclusive contract with Sky.

Broadcasters and new media owners have until the end of the month to apply for a notice of invitation to tender for audio visual rights covering three years from August 2007.

The newly-formed NTL/ Telewest cable giant last week announced it would launch a bid for the live football rights, which have been held exclusively by Sky since the league was formed in 1992.

The Premier League is also offering packages covering the internet and mobile phones as new media platforms increase in popularity. Along with the live packages – which have controversially been split into six – the league is offering “near live” long form packages containing all matches not shown live; a free-to-air highlights package; a mobile clips package for all matches, including in-match clips and a Web-based clips package for all matches.

The live and “near live” packages will be offered on a media neutral basis, including on mobile and IPTV (internet protocol TV) platforms, and will include certain deferred rights for on-demand services.

Under the new Premier League agreement with the EC, the six live packages comprising 23 games each have to be made up of matches of equal quality. Currently, the &£1.1bn-a-year exclusive deal with Sky is divided into three packages of descending value. The six packages are also to be sold according to kick-off times.

The league gave a commitment late last year that at least two broadcasters will share the rights in future and no bidder will be allowed to buy more than five of the six packages of live games. Previously, chief executive Richard Scudamore had argued that the EU proposals would “damage the game at all levels”.

Tender documents for audio rights, including radio broadcast, and international audio visual rights will be issued at a later date.

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