BSKYB scores soccer

U.K. paybox wins bid

Blighty’s giant paybox BSkyB looks certain to remain the dominant force in televising live English Premier League soccer after it secured three of the six packages of matches on offer Friday for an undisclosed, multimillion-dollar sum.

All the bidders were tight-lipped about the financial details but the contest for the rights, the most valuable sports asset in British TV, is expected to be worth more than £2 billion ($3.4 billion) to the League.

Netting three of the six 23-game packages gives the Murdoch-backed paybox access to half of the games until 2010, when the three-year contract expires.

And BSkyB could pick up two more packages in a second round of bidding. Under new rules introduced by the European Commission, no company can hold more than five packages.

However, the fact that it didn’t win all five packages in the first round hit BSkyB’s share price, which closed down 2.4% at 518p.

Rival bidder cabler NTL, about to be rebranded as Virgin TV, could outbid the satcaster for the remaining rights.

It seems that the second round of bidding is a smart move by the Premier League to hike up the value of rights even further.

Irish broadcaster Setanta, operator of sports channels for European ex-pats in the U.S., and terrestrial webs Channel 4 and Five are also believed to be bidding.

BSkyB paid $1.74 billion for all rights to 138 games for three seasons under the previous deal.