ESPN Moves a Step Closer To Premier League TV Rights


Setanta Sports’s decision Thursday to sub-license the U.S. Internet rights to the Carling Cup, Coca-Cola Championship League and Football League to ESPN sends a message loud and clear that the Disney-owned corporation has the Premier League in its sights.

In the agreement between ESPN and Setanta, ESPN will broadcast many live Carling Cup, Championship and Football League matches via in the United States.’s schedule will include up to two Football League matches per week (totaling up to 84 matches this season), Football League playoff and final matches, and will feature five matches from rounds 1-5, four semi-final matches and the finals from Carling Cup competition.

In total, ESPN 360 will bring live coverage (and replay availability) for up to 100 English soccer games this season.

As of press time, it’s unclear how this new agreement will affect the availability of Carling Cup and Championship matches on Setanta Broadband.

In many ways, the agreement between Setanta and ESPN is mixed news for soccer fans. For those who have access to ESPN360, it’s a great coup to get free access to some top games via broadband. But ESPN360 isn’t available to everyone… only those consumers who ar with cable companies who have contracted a deal with ESPN360. So, if you’re like me and your local Comcast cable company hasn’t signed a deal with ESPN, you can expect to see a screenshot like the one pictured below.

The availability of ESPN360 aside, the move by ESPN sends a message to soccer fans and Fox Soccer Channel that the Disney-owned company is serious about expanding its coverage of live games.

If ESPN can make a move like this, what’s stopping them from aggressively bidding for the TV rights to the Premier League when they go on the auction block next year? Fox Soccer Channel currently owns the TV rights in the United States and sub-licenses many of the games to Setanta Sports, but Fox’s ownership of the rights will be in serious jeopardy if ESPN decides to throw its hat in the ring.

ESPN’s agreement with Setanta Sports hints at the possibility of both of these networks working closer together in the future. For example, if ESPN wins the TV rights to the Premier League in the United States, it’s very possible that ESPN may sub-license some of the games to Setanta to carry on its network — especially since ESPN would be unable to show all the games available simulteanously.

The partnership between ESPN and Setanta spells bad news for Fox Soccer Channel. Without the Premier League, Fox will never be the same.

7 thoughts on “ESPN Moves a Step Closer To Premier League TV Rights”

  1. Good news indeed. I'd really like to see ESPN classics converted into ESPN3 on which to show EPL and other soccer games. Setanta Broadband is pretty bad in terms of picture quality and customer service that moving some matches to ESPN360 would be very welcome. And who knows, maybe by showing EPL games on 360 Setanta would be inclined to improve their service in order to compete?

  2. Interesting, i am fortunate to have ESPN 360 via Verizon and they do a good job on there. My question will be whats the coverage like? Who will provide it, will it be Tommy driving me crazy or will they simply air the international feeds you see on FSC and Setanta?

    Also unless I missed it, when is this due to begin? Today, next season ?

  3. I was pleasantly shocked to find the CCC on ESPN 360 last night when I logged on to catch up on College Football viewing I had missed while campaigning this weekend.

    BTW, I'm hearing rumors of a signed cross marketing deal between Disney (ESPN/ABCs parent company) and Adidas to promote Adidas kits, etc in the US. It's a complement to MLS' deal with ESPN (MLS is exclusive Adidas). This means more mainstream availability of Chelsea, Newcastle and Liverpool's kits.

  4. You mean WHEN ESPN wins the rights to the Premier League. It's just a matter of time before ESPN does this and if they have a partnership with Setanta, but I don't think FSC would be left out in the cold like that. However, I would imagine FSC would be getting a lot of West Brom vs Bolton games and rarely getting a big four team.

    It's such a great move for ESPN to do this and would only need to sub license the games on Saturdays during the college football season. Have you seen what they show on a Sunday morning after countdown? Bowling? Pool? With a big Sunday schedule they could fill out their Sunday programming quite well with some tape delayed games.

  5. Well great news in part for me since I have access at work to 360. The deeper implications are that we will soon see English soccer on ESPN 2 or 3, or 4.

    I disagree on the thought that it's bad news for FSC. In fact I submit that it will increase the popularity of the game and more people will tune in to what EPL offering thiere is on FSC. NFL football is covered by CBS, NBC, Fox, ESPN, and the NFL network in the US. The NBA is shown on ESPN/ABC and TNT. NCAA football is on ABC/ESPN, CBS, and NBC, with a`host of other cable outlets. I could go on, but having ESPN carry the English came is great promotion for FSC and it's product. In the future the big game of the week maybe sold to ESPN and you may see FSC take a lessor game, ie: Man U. v. Chelsea on ESPN but Villa v. Everton on FSC and a relagation battle. It's a exciting development!

  6. The more visibility for the EPL, the better for everyone, but only if FSC continues to have broadcast rights. I think this all came about because Setanta saw the future and realized they needed to have a deal in place with ESPN in order to continue to broadcast EPL matches once ESPN takes over the US Broadcast rights. FSC might have to sub-lease the broadcast rights, and thus will get the so-called lesser games. The relegation battles are sometimes better than the top of the table. I for one would probably see Pompey on FSC more often than ESPN simply because we're not one of the big four.

    The increased visibility of the league should translate into higher ratings. However, hockey tried this about ten years ago with games on Fox and ESPN, and it didn't work. Yes, they shot themselves in the foot with the strike in 1994 and then taking an entire season off(can't remember the year). Hopefully, the EPL and ESPN will do a better job of marketing the games so that the viewership grows.

  7. Some poster on posted the following when I brought up the idea of converting ESPN Classic to an ESPN 3 or ESPN World in this thread:

    ESPN Classic (U.S.) will NEVER become “ESPN3”. And I do mean NEVER. Not in the next 10 years, 50 years, or 100 years.

    Why not?

    COX, Time Warner, and Comcast all insisted on a “no conversion” clause in the current carriage agreement they did with ESPN, Inc./Walt Disney Company.

    The “no conversion” clause prohibits ESPN Classic (U.S.) from carrying live programming beyond a handful of hours (i.e. less than 9) each week.

    The guy throws out a bunch of other stuff which is pretty interesting even if his delivery was a bit snarky. Hopefully, Chris will ask someone from ESPN when he does another interview if it is true that ESPN signed deals with the different cable operators like Cox and Comcast who have cable sports stations they own and operate that ESPN are limited in the amount of live sports coverage they can show on ESPN Classic.

    I have to say if you watch ESPN Deportes the production values of SportsCenter and presentation overall is much better than FSC. Imagine if ESPN did get the rights to broadcast Premiership Games in Europe and the States what kind of features, highlight packages, and heightened production values we would get as viewers? It would be cool if they had embedded reporters in Spain, Germany, and Italy along with of course England who do pieces for SportsCenter that is devoted to soccer.

    Anyway, it will be fun to see how the TV Rights issues of the different leagues shake out in the next couple of years. Especially how much more ESPN will get into the soccer broadcasting game with English language rights here in the States as its pretty obvious that they are more than dipping their toe into broadcasting domestic league soccer from Europe……………….

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