PCCW's Now TV, Hong Kong's second-largest pay television provider, will bid for the local rights to show English Premier League football matches for three seasons starting next year, competing against Television Broadcasts and current rights holder i-Cable Communications, a Now TV source said. The local rights are due to be auctioned in December. I-Cable has held them since 2001 and its latest three-year contract expires in May next year. Officials of Now TV are confident that the Premier League matches are all their service needs to wrest market leadership from i-Cable, which had about 770,000 subscribers as of mid-year. Now TV has enrolled about 650,000 users since its debut in 2003 ended 10 years during which i-Cable had the market to itself. Now TV had sought the rights three years ago. Now TV is expected to bid in partnership with ESPN Star Sports, jointly owned by Walt Disney and Star Group. Now TV is the exclusive carrier of the ESPN and Star Sports channels in Hong Kong. A Now TV source said the company had held talks with TVB about joining the bid, but an alliance was unlikely. TVB Pay Vision, a fledgling service transmitted on Now's platform since May, said in August it would bid for the Premiership games. Industry watchers see Now TV as the best-placed bidder because as part of the PCCW group it is able to offer a live television and internet streaming and mobile phone service in one package. 'The Premier League will sell the rights in one package, including terrestrial and pay television, internet broadcasting and mobile phone rights,' according to a source familiar with the bidding. ESPN Star Sports has held regional rights to the English Premier League since August 2004. However, the league treats Hong Kong and Indonesia as independent bidding regions. 'The total amount bid for Hong Kong and Indonesia rights was more than was bid for the Asian regional rights, which include India and China,' the source said. I-Cable's contract was estimated to have cost HK$600 million. The Hong Kong rights to Italy's Serie A are expected to be auctioned in January.