SBD/Issue 191/Sports Media

ESPN Picks Up All EPL Rights In U.K. Previously Owned By Setanta

ESPN Has Reportedly Matched Prices
Agreed Upon By Setanta For EPL Rights
ESPN yesterday "confirmed its entry as a major force in the British sports rights market by securing all" EPL rights in the U.K. previously owned by Setanta, according to Paul Kelso of the London TELEGRAPH. ESPN has acquired TV rights to 46 EPL games next season that the EPL stripped from Setanta after a missed payment, as well as the 23 games per season from '10-13 Setanta was due to show. ESPN reportedly has "matched the prices agreed by Setanta for the rights," paying around $211.8M (all figures U.S.) for next season and an additional $259.1M annually for the three-year deal starting with the '10-11 season. Kelso notes the deal should "ensure that Premier League clubs are not out of pocket despite the decision to effectively push Setanta to the edge of administration last week by withdrawing its contract" (London TELEGRAPH, 6/23). The LONDON TIMES reports ESPN will "not try to sell subscriptions directly to customers, as Setanta did; instead, its channels will be sold" through BSkyB and "other pay-television platforms." No price has been determined, but a monthly fee of about $16 is expected (LONDON TIMES, 6/23).

BREAKING DOWN THE DEAL: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Aaron Patrick notes ESPN's purchase of the rights "could mark a big step forward for its international expansion." While ESPN's sports coverage has "made it a success in the U.S., the network draws tiny ratings in Britain," where it only has two channels: ESPN America and ESPN Classic. Meanwhile, Patrick notes ESPN's deal "puts the network in the unusual position of competing" with BSkyB, also an EPL rights holder, while at the same time relying on the net to "reach viewers" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/23). PAID CONTENT's Patrick Smith noted the deal "doesn't mean UK customers will get many new online live or VOD services such as ESPN360," because these rights "allow cross-platform linear coverage only." Broadcasters can show games "online simultaneously as part of a subscription package" (PAIDCONTENT.org, 6/22). SOCCER BY IVES' Ives Galarcep wrote the deal "does not mean EPL games are coming to ESPN (yet)." Rather, what it "might mean is better coverage of the EPL on programs like SportsCenter, and improved soccer coverage on ESPN as it handles covering the EPL in England" (SOCCERBYIVES.net, 6/22).

TOUCH THE SKY: In Manchester, Ewan Murray reports Sky is the "favourite to reclaim main broadcasting rights" for the Scottish Premier League (SPL) after the league yesterday confirmed it is "actively engaging in the process of selling its domestic broadcasting rights" previously owned by Setanta. The SPL reportedly has been "in talks with Sky for a number of weeks regarding" a $146.7M deal -- about $57M "less than Setanta originally paid for the rights -- as Setanta's financial problems became increasingly apparent." ESPN also has "indicated a willingness to screen" SPL games on a "four-year deal but the level of exposure and perceived lower levels of risk attached to returning to Sky is likely to sway SPL clubs" (Manchester GUARDIAN, 6/23).

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