ESPN is interested in bidding for the TV rights to the Premier League according to a senior executive interviewed by The Financial Times.
The rights in question are the much coveted UK TV rights only. The American broadcaster is considering bidding for the rights in 2009, which will likely mean that the TV rights fees will spiral yet again due to increased competition allowing the Premier League (and the 20 clubs) to pocket more massive sums of money. ESPN would be competing for the rights against the incumbent Sky Sports and Setanta Sports.
ESPN is in the process of launching their network in Europe after recently purchasing NASN (North American Sports Network) from Setanta. The American broadcaster will be rebranding NASN as ESPN in the near future. Adding the Premier League to the network after 2009 would be a massive coup.
The news about ESPN’s interest in the Premier League TV rights makes absolute sense if the network wants to be as successful in Europe as it has been in the United States. Despite ESPN’s interest in the UK TV rights for the Premier League, no mention has been made of their interest in bidding for the US TV rights for the league. But if ESPN is able to acquire the UK TV rights — and they would be in for a massive battle against Sky Sports especially — this may convince ESPN that the US TV rights would be beneficial too.
Today’s news from ESPN will increase speculation that the broadcaster may be interested in acquiring Setanta Sports, which will give automatically the American broadcaster an entryway into having some Premier League TV rights in the UK and US.
Fox Soccer Channel, meanwhile, should watch the news closely as they may not be able to compete if ESPN decided to bid for the TV rights in the United States. Imagine how different FSC would be without the Premier League. It’s almost unthinkable and would change the perception of the channel overnight.
What do you think? Do you think having ESPN acquire the UK rights will be a good thing for football fans in the UK? And do you see ESPN being interested in acquiring the rights in the US at all?