The BBC, ITV and Five are set to pitch for some or all of the eight
The BBC, ITV and Five are set to pitch for some or all of the eight Premiership football games BSkyB will be forced to sell from next season.The three broadcasters have welcomed the decision and have privately said they will bid for games as long as they were of significant interest.Channel 4 is not believed to be interested.Following a long-running stand-off with the European Commission (EC), Sky this week agreed to sub-license eight "high-quality" Saturday afternoon Premiership games from one of its two bronze packages to a free-to-air broadcaster from next season.The agreement follows an investigation by EC officials into how Sky won all four Premier League football packages for 2004-2006. Brussels investigated whether the procedure created by the FA for the deal was fair and open and allowed rivals a proper chance to bid for the Gold, Silver and two Bronze packages.The BBC, ITV and Five had all considered pitching for one of the packages of up to 38 games. But even by tabling joint bids they privately admitted that they would not have the space to show them. A package of eight games, or a handful of single matches, would be more suitable.The move weakens Sky's grip on Premier League football, which brings in a large part of its revenue and is a key driver of set-top box sales.It may seek to cut its£1.024bn offer in light of the loss of exclusivity.However, the change is something of a best-case scenario for Sky. Indeed, people close to the deal in Brussels see it as something of a sop being offered by Sky to the Commission to ensure that it does not completely lose out in the bidding for a new package from 2007 onwards.The Premier League has now promised that from 2007, at least two broadcasters will be able to show Premiership games. The FA has said that no one TV channel will be able to buy the rights to all live games and also accepted that the Commission's competition experts will be able to examine the conditions for the next round of auctions to ensure fairness.Brussels competition commissioner Mario Monti said: "By creating opportunities for broadcasters other than BSkyB now, and even greater opportunities in the future, the Commission is aiming to increase consumer choice in the UK."For the first time, there is a real opportunity for free-to-air broadcasters to provide viewers with top flight Premier League action throughout the season."