ISLEWORTH, UK: NewsCorp-controlled British satellite monopoly BSkyB has once again pulled a masterly flanker on rival US cable monopoly NTL, whose loss-making operations are confined to the British Isles.

Somebody somewhere is the equivalent of a chess grandmaster when it comes to spoiling tactics. Just weeks ago, Sky torpedoed NTL's friendly takeover bid for ITV by snatching a 17.9% stake in the latter [WARC News: 06-Dec-06].

And now another bandillero has been delicately implanted in NTL's hide. Sky has just inked a deal - reputedly worth £1 million ($1.96m; €1.49m) with SMG, the Scottish media conglomerate that owns the Virgin Radio brand, in which it will sponsor the station's breakfast show for the next twelve months.

The deal includes sponsor credits, promotional trails and TV-related features on the breakfast show and sponsorship of the Sky TV Guide. Virgin Radio also claims to be the world's most popular internet station, a presence on which is included in the Sky deal.

Earlier this year NTL acquired Virgin Mobile from ubiquitous entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson (who these days owns or controls very few of the brands once associated with his name) with the intention of melding the knight's cellphone and retail business with its cable TV and telecoms offerings - rebranded as Virgin Media.

Sky's latest wheeze neatly whisks from under NTL's nose the opportunity to use the popular Virgin Radio platform to promote its transmogrification under the new and seemingly related Virgin moniker.

Gurgles Virgin Radio ceo Fru Hazlitt: "This is a really exciting deal. Not only is it one of the biggest sponsorship deals we've ever signed, but Sky is such a natural brand partner for our most high-profile show."

However, no comment from the perma-grinned knight, now NTL's largest shareholder, and his fellow NTL directors. "Grrrrrrr," mayhap?

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff