ITV plans to bid for BT Premier League production contract
BT Vision is expected to put out a three-year tender for companies to produce the 38 games it has a licence to air
ITV is planning to bid for the BT Premier League production contract.
ITV has denied it is interested in airing any of BT's Premier League matches, but admitted that it is planning to pitch for the £100m-plus contract to produce the telecoms company's live football coverage.
BT, which owns the BT Vision subscription video-on-demand service, will formally put out a three-year tender, valued at between £100m and £132m, for the contract to produce its football coverage and has opened early stage talks with ITV about a potential partnership.
ITV intends to pitch for the business. Production subsidiary ITV Studios already makes the English-language commentary for Al-Jazeera's Sports, fronted by Gary Lineker, Ruud Gullit, Alan Shearer and Terry Venables, for expats throughout the Middle East.
BT has publicly said that it intends to open talks with as many potential TV and internet content distributors as possible in order to recoup the £738m it paid for the live TV rights for 38 Premier League games per season over three years from 2012/13.
As part of the early-stage discussions, it is understood that an idea was floated that one, or potentially two maximum, lesser Premier League games might be shown on ITV in order to promote the sports channel BT intends to launch next year.
However, a spokesman for ITV made it clear that the tentative idea was not something that the broadcaster was interested in and was not considered a serious element of any deal with BT.
"We are not talking to BT about taking any of their Premier League matches for broadcast on ITV channels," said the ITV spokesman. "If BT were looking for a production company to produce their Premier League coverage, that is something that we would of course look at, as we do with other potential contracts."
BT has paid on average about £6.5m per game and needs to maximise revenues by gaining broad distribution.
However, if any of BT's matches were to be aired on ITV, they would in a best-case scenario make between £1m and £1.5m from advertising and sponsorship. This is nowhere near enough to cover what BT paid for the rights.
Channel 4 looked at bidding for Premier League rights before the auction in June, but decided against such a move because it could not make the sums add up for an advertising-funded business model.
Making any Premier League matches available on free-to-air TV would also undermine the value of a pay-TV subscription model.
Several analysts believe BT does not even have the right under its deal with the Premier League to sub-license matches to other broadcasters in such a manner.
The production is likely to be contested by sports production companies such as IMG Worldwide, All3Medias, North One Television and Sunset + Vine, which is owned by Welsh-based production group Tinopolis.