One of the founders of Sky Television looks to have returned to haunt the network after stealing the lucrative English Premier League football rights from the Kiwi pay television giant.
American-based Kiwi entrepreneur Craig Heatley is believed to have teamed up with another prominent New Zealand businessman to form an alternative sporting channel to Sky Television.
The company, called 818, is understood to have been successful in securing the English football which is regarded by Sky as premium content and critical to the network's sporting menu.
Heatley was one of the founders of Sky in the early 1990s and in recent times has based himself in Atlanta where he is prominent in golf circles.
The other Kiwi businessmen involved also has a strong content and business and sporting background including within rugby.
Sky chief executive John Fellet last night confirmed the loss of the rights and his disappointment. He revealed Sky had put in its biggest ever bid for the rights but had been beaten to the rights.
Network spokesman Kirsty Way said Sky did not know the identity of the successful bidder.
"Our bid has been unsuccessful and we are disappointed," Way said. "All I can say is that the rights have gone to a private equity firm."
Fairfax Media understands that the Heatley-led company has also secured the rights to the Italian Serie A and French leagues and intend to set up a football channel.
The news will be greeted with enthusiasm by many football fans in New Zealand who are looking for alternatives to Sky's sports packaging which doesn't allow subscribers to purchase football only.
But it will rock Sky which has held an iron-grip on sporting rights in this country, successfully burying the free-to-air networks as meaningful rivals.
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