BSkyB buys U.K. soccer rights

Company pays more than $1.4 billion

U.K. paybox BSkyB has splashed out more than £1 billion ($1.4 billion) for exclusive rights to English Premier League soccer in a deal that will run from 2010-13.

The Premier League announced late Tuesday that BSkyB, which celebrates its 20th anniversary Thursday, had been awarded four of the six live rights packages.

Although the figure has not been officially revealed, it is believed to be less than the $1.9 billion the satcaster paid for the 2007-10 rights.

“BSkyB will have paid around a £1 billion, maybe a little less than last time, but the overall take for the league is expected to be about the same because the value of the international rights is increasing,” said a media consultant.

With the U.K. economy in a fragile state, the league will be more than pleased that BSkyB, whose business is built on soccer, has forked out so much.

The deal gives the paybox live coverage of 92 games per season.

Another round of bidding will get under way for the remaining two live packages of matches.

Disney-owned ESPN is hoping to pry some of the rights away from Setanta, the Dublin-based subscription sports specialist that ended BSkyB’s monopoly of live coverage of English Premier League soccer in 2006.

Industryites, however, expect Setanta to hold on to its share of the soccer spoils simply because ESPN’s pockets are not deep enough.

In 2006, Setanta paid $565 million for the rights.

The auction for international and new media rights will begin once the remaining live domestic rights have been sold.

Last week, the BBC paid $250 million over three years for Premier League recorded highlights, which will allow the pubcaster to continue screening its popular “Match of the Day” show.

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