The European Commission has agreed a compromise with UK satellite operator BSkyB and the Premier League over live coverage of soccer matches.

European regulators had challenged a £1.024 billion ($1.8bn; €1.5bn) deal granting BSkyB exclusive rights to live matches from the Premier League, England's elite soccer division [WAMN: 03-Dec-03]. However, the EC has brokered a deal whereby rival broadcasters will be offered eight of the highest-profile live games a year, starting from the 2004/2005 season.

In addition, when the current contract runs out in 2007, the Premier League will be unable to sell its entire live rights to one broadcaster.

BSkyB -- controlled by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation -- has relied on its exclusive Premier League coverage to help build its pay-TV business. Under pressure from European regulators to open the sector to competition, the League offered four different live packages in its latest broadcast rights auction in August -- only for BSkyB to scoop them all [WAMN: 11-Aug-03].

But even though BSkyB paid to ensure exclusivity, the satellite giant is not expected to seek a reduction in the price of the deal following the regulatory compromise. Given the amount of live football it broadcasts, some regard eight games as a relative drop in the ocean.

Data sourced from: BBC Online Business News (UK); additional content by WARC staff