BSkyB, NTL ink 5-year deal to share program supply

NTL to carry all BSkyB main channels wholesale

LONDON — Satcaster British Sky Broadcasting and U.K. cabler NTL have sealed a five-year programming supply deal.

The agreement entails NTL carrying all of BSkyB’s main TV channels under a new wholesale pricing structure. In addition, BSkyB and NTL are committed to supplying any future services to each other.

This means, for one thing, that BSkyB will gain access to NTL’s pay-per-view Premier League soccer. BSkyB holds the rights to live, non-PPV Premier League matches.

The deal, however, requires clearance from the U.K.’s Office of Fair Trading.

NTL already carries most of BSkyB’s key channels — such as Sky One and the Sky Sports channels — but their high cost has been a bone of contention for years.

This agreement breaks that impasse and likely means that Telewest, Britain’s other cable company, will also come to a new arrangement with BSkyB.

NTL is understood to have committed £10 million ($15 million) to marketing BSkyB’s channels.

A significant plus for the satcaster is that Sky News will be made available to the 50% of NTL subscribers that cannot receive the service — despite the fact that NTL is partnered with terrestrial news provider ITN in a new 24-hour news channel.

BSkyB is approaching 5 million DTH customers, of which about 4 million are digital. NTL has just over 3 million subs in the U.K. and Ireland, 300,000 digital.

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