English soccer association reaps record fees

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LONDON -- Analysts at Panmure Gordon, London, have concluded England's Premier League - the association of the country's top soccer teams - will earn a record-breaking $330 million a year from domestic and international TV broadcast rights during this season, which kicks off August 15. And that excludes the $30m a year being paid by the BBC, the U.K. public broadcaster, for delayed highlights.

In addition to the $275 million a year collected from U.K. satellite pay-TV giant BSkyB for exclusive live broadcast, the English Premier League is also earning $57 million annually from overseas rights.

Sale of the international rights is the result of a $170-million three-year deal with a joint venture involving sports entrepreneur Mark McCormack's International Management Group and French payTV giant Canal Plus.

The deal, to sell international broadcasters live matches played by the League's 20 teams, is almost four times the $15.3 million paid annually by CSI, which held the overseas TV rights during the previous five seasons.

The Premier League is said to have chosen the IMG/Canal Plus offer because the joint venture promised to extend the games' reach from Europe and Australia to the much coveted Asian market.

The new contract offers live transmission to several major European markets and countries in the Far East, where top soccer clubs such as Manchester United have a large following.

However, analysts warn broadcasters cannot maintain the inflationary costs of sports TV rights indefinitely. While it may be strategically effective to the broadcasters to pay more than the teams are actually worth, the prices must eventually settle down.

Copyright July 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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