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ITV in talks with BT to show live Premier League games, claims report

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ITV is reportedly in talks with BT to broadcast live Premier League football for the first time in its history, in a move that could shake up the football landscape.

BT shocked the market this summer when it paid £738 million to secure rights to 38 games per season starting from August 2013. Sky picked up the remaining matches and will show 116 games per season on Sky Sports.

Telecoms giant BT previously announced plans to market the games on a "football-focused channel" that would offer "new interactive features when supplied over BT's fibre network".

But The Daily Telegraph claims that BT is also in talks to bring some of the coverage to terrestrial broadcaster ITV.

The move would enable BT to recoup some of its outlay on the matches by selling on a portion of the rights to ITV, but also the firm would look to use the public service broadcaster to produce coverage of games.

Earlier in the year, BT Vision chief executive Marc Watson said that he wanted to use the live Premier League rights as a "calling card" with which to sell other BT products.

"This is about creating the opportunity to build more customer relationships," he said after the deal was agreed in June.

This suggests that, unlike Sky, BT does not see the value in making all live Premier League coverage exclusive to pay-TV and instead is keen to use the rights on a wider platform for brand and marketing purposes.

Bringing the games to ITV could mean much bigger ratings and so huge sponsorship and branding opportunities for BT, although it is unclear how this would impact the BBC's deal to highlights for Match of the Day.

Since BT agreed its surprise deal with the Premier League, it has emerged that the firm actually wanted to bid for all seven of the packs of rights on offer, but was told it could only go for five. In the end it got just two, but that included valuable first pick on 18 matches per season.

Such a well funded competitor for Sky meant that the part Rupert Murdoch-owned firm had to agree to pay £760m per annum for five packs over three years, up from the current deal level of £541m per season.

The Telegraph notes that a partnership of ITV and BT would be "much better placed" to challenge Sky's dominance over top flight English football.

Alongside collaborating on the live rights, it is claimed that ITV is in talks to produce the football coverage for BT's new dedicated channel.

ITV is pitching for the estimated £100m contract over three years, but other providers are also in the running, including IMG Worldwide, All3Media's North One Television and Sunset + Vine.

BT declined to comment on the report. An ITV spokesman denied that the company was in talks over Premier League games.

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