BSkyB pix on hold

B'caster's plans for digital TV hit snag

LONDON — Confusion over whether British Sky Broadcasting holds the rights to provide movies and sports to British Digital Broadcasting looks set to complicate the launch of digital terrestrial television in the U.K.

Satcaster BSkyB’s movies and sports programming were among the deciding factors behind the BDB consortium winning three licenses last week to launch about 30 digital terrestrial channels in the U.K. The programming has proven to be the key driver of pay TV in Britain.

However, some U.K.-based film execs — BSkyB has deals with Warner, Columbia, UIP (Universal and Paramount), Disney, MGM and Fox — are suggesting that their deals with BSkyB are for satellite and cable only.

Because increased subscription through digital terrestrial carriage can only increase the revenue Hollywood receives from BSkyB, the rumblings are likely related to the renegotiation of existing deals or tactical leverage in pay-per-view deals currently under negotiation.

At the same time, British soccer’s Premier League has stated that its existing four-year, $1.1 billion deal with BSkyB — which extends to 2001 — does not cover digital terrestrial.

The league is believed to be pushing for an additional $116 million. BSkyB is said to be willing to pay no more than about $80 million.

BSkyB was originally a partner in BDB but was forced to sell its one-third share to Carlton Communications and Granada Group — the other two partners — because of competition concerns by the ITC, Britain’s commercial TV regulatory authority.

That arrangement includes BSkyB remaining a programming supplier to BDB.

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