English Premier League may settle EU dispute

The English Premier League is reportedly ready to settle its television rights dispute with the European Commission in a move expected to curb British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC's hold over top-flight football. The UK Observer said both sides are prepared to make concessions to reach a deal that would end Sky's 13-year monopoly over screening live matches.

It said the EU Commission's Competition Directorate has dropped its insistence that Sky be restricted to showing no more than half the live matches under the league's new contract covering 2007-10. However, the deal is expected to allow a rival broadcaster such as ITV PLC, NTL Inc, Setanta, or another channel, to show enough games to attract fans' subscriptions.

Last week it was reported that Britain's new cable giant, formed out of the merger between NTL and Telewest, is planning a £200 million a year bid for Premier League rights -- subject to the European Commission ruling that no single broadcaster can bid for more than 50 percent of the games. According to Sports Business, Sky paid £1.02 billion in 2003 for an exclusive three-year deal to televise all live Premier League matches. Simon Duffy, the new cable company's chief executive-in-waiting, has been quoted as stating that Sky had underpaid for the rights.

See also: European Union interferes in EPL broadcast rights (14 Sept)