Virgin Media
Cable TV operator is keen to get hold of Sky Sports HD programming and plans to offer cheaper sports packages

Virgin Media hopes to offer cheaper TV packages for football fans in time for next season, and particularly wants to get access to Sky's high-definition sports channels.

However, any such move will depend on whether the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) enforces a cut in the amount BSkyB charges rival broadcasters for Sky Sports.

Hearings at CAT are now in their fourth day as BSkyB tries to challenge Ofcom's ruling that the satellite TV broadcaster must reduce the amount it charges rivals for its sports channels by more than 20 per cent.

Part of Ofcom's ruling states that HD versions of Sky Sports 1 and 2 must be offered to rivals on "fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms".

Rival broadcasters have promised that a freeing-up of competition will result in significant cuts for consumers in the cost of sports packages.

More after the break

Virgin Media chief executive Neil Berkett says: "We will launch an appropriate competitive response when we are clear on what the supply and economics are. We want to launch in time for next season... The real issue is access to HD, that's more important to us than the economics in sports packages."

Virgin has also filed a submission to the Office of Fair Trading opposing the proposed launch of the BBC-backed video-on-demand service Project Canvas.

The news came as Virgin Media announced strong first quarter results. It has added 38,300 new subscribers, way above analysts' expectations, and its overall digital TV subscriber base now stands at 3.7m. Of those, just under one million have signed up for the company's high-definition V+ service.

Overall, revenues were up 2.9 per cent to £963m.

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