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NTL exit leaves ITV Sport holding BBL rights

Once upon a time the BBL was on Sky Sports. Then it got sold off to NTL. 

Now, hey presto, with more channel surfing than a digital satellite viewer with an itchy finger, can exclusively reveal that domestic basketball will be popping up on the ITV Sport Channel from this month in a three year exclusive deal.

The move, which will initially only guarantee 21 live games per season, is understood to have occurred only after cable giants NTL withdrew from a previous agreement to broadcast both domestic and Euroleague contests on a twice-weekly basis. Delays in setting up its planned new British Sport channel, whose own future is now under doubt, are thought to be behind the sale. 

The company is understood to have also sold part of its portfolio of other sporting rights to the recently launched digital channel which is currently only available to subscribers to ITV Digital and, ironically, NTL Digital cable. 

Under current proposals, the number of games to be shown live is less than had been originally planned. However sources close to one club confirmed that the matter is "up for discussion" and that the overall value of the deal is unchanged.

The new arrangement succeeds a previous deal which saw coverage divided between Sky Sports and the BBC and is likely to mean that the public broadcaster will no longer be screening the domestic game. However regional ITV companies will have access to match coverage of the BBL.

Tenders to produce the coverage were sent last week to a number of companies with Tyne-Tees, producers of the award-winning regional BBL show Slam XXL, and Chrysalis, makers of ITV's NBA programming, thought to be among those invited to bid. 

However there is no guarantee that London Towers will have their Euroleague games shown under the terms of the new agreement. The capital club are thought to be the only ULEB club without such a package and any failure to negotiate UK exposure to the competition would leave the Londoners in an unfavourable position with other teams. A call to Towers requesting comment was not returned.

Elsewhere, the BBL is also to seek a new sponsor for its Trophy competition after ending a deal with uni-ball.

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