In an attempt to outflank BSkyB, rival UK broadcaster ITV and cable service providers NTL and Telewest have teamed to make a combined bid for the live television rights for Premier League soccer.

Following revelations that subscriptions from pubs and clubs that air the games are one of the chief sources of BSkyB's revenue, private equity groups including Benchmark Capital have also been attracted to the bright lights and clamour of match day.

Premium sports channel subscriptions are estimated to produce £150 million - £180 million ($274m-$328m; €226m - €271m) per annum for News Corporation-owned BSkyB.

According to one television executive: "Sky can recover almost two thirds of the cost with the revenue from pubs and clubs. But Sky has kept the economics pretty close to its chest."

Continued scrutiny by the European Commission of BSkyB's supremacy in televised soccer has prompted UK broadcasters and cable operators to jostle for position and forge partnerships.

"There is a group of UK broadcasters and cable operators looking at this, although it could take weeks or months to put something together," said another source close to the issue.

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