BSkyB and Virgin Media case not in court until 2008

LONDON (Reuters) - A legal wrangle between BSkyB BSY.L and Virgin Media Inc VMED.O will drag on for at least another year, the High Court heard on Tuesday.

At a brief case management conference, the broadcasters agreed a timetable that will leave any eventual trial of the dispute, in which Virgin accuses Sky of abusing its dominant position in the marketplace, around a year away.

Andrew Morritt, Chancellor of the High Court, formally approved the timetable under which a further pre-trial hearing will take place in November and documents will be exchanged in March. Any trial is expected to take place some months after that, with a judgment not likely until 2009.

Virgin stopped carrying several Sky channels in March after it and Sky failed to agree on the fees that Sky would pay.

Virgin Media, which was created earlier this year after the merger of NTL, Telewest and Virgin’s mobile phone division, said on July 2 it had received a bid approach from an unnamed group.

On Monday, Virgin Media asked suitors to submit expressions of interest by the first week of August to kick off an auction of the company, people familiar with the situation said.

BSkyB Chief Executive James Murdoch said earlier this month that he thought any change of management could lead to more engagement between the two sides.