Soccer may be known as ‘the beautiful game’, but for British commercial network ITV it is turning increasingly ugly.

Not only has a spat with the UK’s Football League helped push dTV platform ITV Digital (jointly owned by controlling ITV shareholders Granada Media and Carlton Communications) into administration, but the network is now also struggling to find a sponsor for its coverage of the sport’s showpiece tournament, the World Cup.

Less than two months before this year’s competition in Japan and Korea kicks off, flagship channel ITV1 has yet to find a company willing to back its broadcasts.

The network was obligated first to negotiate with the World Cup’s official sponsors, including McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, but after nine months of talks no deal has been forged. As it seeks alternative backers, ITV1 has reduced its asking price to £4 million ($5.7m; €6.5m), just 10% of the amount it reportedly paid for broadcast rights.

Reluctance by advertisers to put their names beside coverage of one of the world’s biggest sporting events may reflect the timing of matches, many of which will kick off in the small hours of the British morning, dragging down audience figures.

In addition, a prolonged struggle with BBC1 over which matches each would show meant that ITV1 could not issue a finalised rights offer at an early stage.

Consequently, the network may reduce the price further or break up the single rights package publicly on offer (including all televised coverage, highlights and interactive facilities) into separate chunks. ITV is said to have resigned itself to generating £3m collectively from these deals.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff