A tense game of poker has been running for the past few weeks between two narrow-eyed players -- ITV's recently melded sales unit and Cadbury Trebor Bassett's new media incumbent, Publicis Groupe's Starcom Motive.

Both sides have something to prove, each testing the other's nerve for the £10 million ($18.36m; €14.48m) pot on the table -- the largest single sponsorship in UK television, Cadbury's £10m per year backing of ITV's alternate-nightly soap Coronation Street.

The deal ended its eighth consecutive year on December 31 with the clock still ticking on tense renewal negotiations. Two weeks later, the players are still at the table and -- no deal.

Word around Charlotte Street's acidulous parish pump is that Starcom won the Cadbury business with a promise to slash the amount changing hands for the sponsorship ... but underestimated its opponent's hand.

ITV has also upped the ante by flaunting its discussions with alternative sponsors, although there are few others for whom the long-running soap would be such a perfect brand fit. Nor could such a deal be put together overnight.

The sand has nearly run through the hourglass, the players' minds wonderfully concentrated by the fact that the sponsorship credits -- and the concomitant cash -- could both evaporate by the end of this week.

Cadbury, meantime, remains loftily above the fray, voicing the hope that the two sides can resolve their differences. According to a spokesman the negotiations were delayed, not by brinkmanship but by the Granada-Carlton merger, then exacerbated by Cadbury's recent (October) change of media agency.

Data sourced from: BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff