Scottish deal gives BSkyB soccer boost

Murdoch-owned b'caster pays $73 million for rights

LONDON — Rupert Murdoch’s British Sky Broadcasting has increased its stranglehold over pay TV rights to British soccer matches with the signing of a four-year, $73 million deal with the Scottish Premier League.

Added together with its existing arrangements, the new pact, which allows for the screening of 30 live matches each season, means that BSkyB will be showing live soccer continuously from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. every Sunday.

The Scottish deal is seen as a blow to British Digital Broadcasting, the new digital television venture jointly owned by leisure giants Carlton Communications and Granada Group. BDB reportedly offered closer to $100 million for the soccer rights for a longer time period, but was pipped at the post by BSkyB, which launches its own digital offering, Sky Digital, this month.

BSkyB now has pay TV rights to national games in Scotland and England, to the premier league in both countries, and to the Scottish Cup and the Coca-Cola Cup. Reports indicated that BSkyB will share its rights with BBC or Grampian/STV, as previously, with a highlights package being shown on either or both channels.

However, BSkyB has yet to make inroads into British soccer with pay-per-view. Its most recent set of PPV proposals failed to convince the English Premier League.

Despite this, BSkyB insists that negotiations with the Premier League are “ongoing.”