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BBC, ITV battle for Champions League audience

The BBC and ITV will go head to head in a battle for live Champions League football coverage that is expected to go down to the wire and could cost them as much as £70m a year for just 17 matches.

After BSkyB paid an estimated £240m for the majority of live rights from 2009 to 2012, the two terrestrial broadcasters are desperate to clinch the remaining package on offer. It will give the winner the rights to first choice of all Wednesday matches, including exclusive coverage of one semi-final and a share of the final. It also includes the rights to internet and mobile phone coverage of those matches.

The two sides say it remains too close to call, with Five also expected to join the fray as an outside bet. Sky will also submit a new bid in an effort to secure exclusive coverage, but Uefa's president, Michel Platini, is thought to be committed to the idea of continuing to share the rights between a pay-TV operator and a free-to-air broadcaster.

The ITV chairman, Michael Grade, who played a key role in the capture of live FA Cup and England rights from the BBC and Sky, has taken a close personal interest in the Champions League auction.

Although it has already paid £275m for its share of the FA rights with Setanta, he is believed to be determined to retain the Champions League as well.

According to insiders, Grade has sanctioned a "very competitive" bid.

Under the new deal, Sky will increase the number of matches it shows each season from 103 to 130, and the number of match nights will also increase, from 25 to 34.

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Tribal Football Staff

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