ITVd On Injury Time as UK Football League Rejects Deal

22 March 2002

Bucking the forecasts of numerous analysts, Britain’s Football League has rejected a drastically reduced broadcast rights offer from terrestrial dTV platform ITV Digital – a decision that leaves the broadcaster on the edge of collapse.

Under the existing contract with the League (the three soccer divisions below the Premier League), ITVd must pay £178 million ($254m; €289m) over the next two years. The cash-strapped platform insists it must renegotiate the deal, and offered the League £50m.

The League argued that accepting the reduced offer would push thirty to fifty of its 72 clubs into bankruptcy. However, enforcing the full contract will likely prompt the collapse of ITV Digital, an outcome to which its owners Granada Media and Carlton Communications are said to be increasingly resigned.

“We have crossed an emotional Rubicon,” declared an ITVd insider. “Unless we can put this business on a sound economic footing, we will shut it down. This contract is a key part of that.”

The League – which declared it would go to court if necessary to get the payments – was in no mood for compromise: “Nobody should be in any doubt that if this contract is not honoured there will be widespread bankruptcies in many local communities and football will be left desolated,” chairman Keith Harris warned.

“In such circumstances, Carlton Communications, Granada and ITV Digital will bear a heavy responsibility.”

The platform, however, is still seeking a compromise. “We are committed to a constructive dialogue with the Football League about our contract,” it declared. “Our priority is to find a workable solution for both sides.”

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff