BSkyB pays record in Scottish soccer deal

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GLASGOW -- U.K.-based BSkyB, Europe's biggest satellite pay-TV venture, has signed a record- breaking $73 million four-year deal to be exclusive broadcaster of soccer matches by the newly formed Scottish Premier League to the year 2002.

The move enhances the ambitions of the Rupert Murdoch-controlled BSkyB to be one of Europe's biggest sports TV broadcasters.

The agreement, comprising live transmission of 30 matches each season on BSkyB's Sky Sports channels, starts August 1998.

Like the highly successful English Premier League, currently sponsored by Bass Brewers' Carling beer brand, the Scottish Premier is a breakaway group of the most popular teams.

The 1998-99 period represents the first season of the new league, which also hopes to announce a major sponsorship agreement soon.

Until now, Scottish soccer has been dominated by the Scottish Football Association's Divisions One, Two and Three. But last year, the 10 leading clubs decided to split from the traditional structure to form an independent league.

The Scottish Premier League hopes that by emulating its English counterpart, its members will be free to bargain more effectively with TV stations and brand sponsors.

Broadcasters and advertisers are prepared to pay premium rates for the transmission of matches involving the best soccer teams because they guarantee high audience ratings.

After its launch in 1992, the English Premier League received $312 million from BSkyB for exclusive live coverage of the first five seasons.

And to ensure the rival free-TV terrestrial channels didn't pick up the rights later, BSkyB agreed to pay the English Premier League $1.1 billion for the following four seasons, starting 1996.

The great value placed on the Premier League clubs for both broadcasters and advertisers has enabled about 20 U.K. teams to successfully launch on the stock market.

Copyright June 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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