More news seems to be filtering through over the continued rumours that Setanta Sports are in financial difficulty here in the UK and are desperately trying to find some finance to help them through after they only won one of the six Premier League Packages for the next deal that starts in 2010. A desperate attempt at going to the Premier League, OFCOM and the European Commission arguing that bidding less for the Monday night packages than Sky and therefore not winning them is unfair. No really.
Yet here in UK, you’ve got take these stories with a pinch of salt, due to the massive media influence that Sky have, sharing an owner with two of the UK’s biggest Newspapers, The Sun and The Times. It wouldn’t take much co-ordination to orchestrate a collective campaign to create worrying speculation over Sky’s rival, yet it’s a story that has dogged them for a while and not just from Sky’s media bedfellows.
With a major investment in British football, with deals for both the English and Scottish Premierships, England matches and the F.A. Cup, Setanta is a major investor in the sport but is now apparently trying to re-negotiate it’s deal with the Scottish Premiership down from £125 million to £100 million. It’s also said to be in talks with the PGA to do the same with its American golf coverage.
Personally, I think it’s done a pretty good job for a new player in the game, though its roster of analysts and presenters could do with an overhaul. Steve McManaman is an unusual choice as the main pundit, Craig Burley a poor commentator. Yes, I have to pay £13 a month more for football, but I love football and not just from England.It gives me German, French, Portuguese, Scottish and Dutch football every week, its preseason friendly coverage is fantastic in its depth and breadth but it is a distant third for quality behind Sky and the undisputed kings, the BBC. I like watching football from all over Europe and Setanta gives me a choice I never had previously apart from the awful Eurogoals on dreadfully inept Eurosport.
One memorial episode featured no commentary for 25 minutes until the noise of someone rushing through the door, slamming it shut and breathing heavily for two minutes before beginning to speak will live long in the mind. Every week the commentator clearly hadn’t seen the footage and was flying by the seat of their pants. It never started on time, it was either early or late but never at the advertised time.It was easily the most infuriating football show on television.
The argument that Setanta feels unfairly done to though just doesn’t hold water. It misread the market and believed that with the last deal, the TV rights market had peaked. They were wrong and under bid by 20% of the deal they went with in 2007, Sky bid more and won it. They didn’t want the Saturday evening game rights as they consistently get the lowest figures of all football shown here in the UK on digital TV. Setanta went for them and won.
They made a massive error of judgement and already under subscribed by the 500,000 viewers it needs to reach it’s break even figure of 1.9 million subscribers, now faces a real prospect of people leaving their service. If Setanta do fail, the Premier League would lose around £159 million in revenue over a 3 year period, which would see each Premier League club lose around 2.7 million per season. It would be doubtful that the BBC or even ITV wouldn’t find the money from somewhere to come up with a suitable replacement.The FA on the other hand have a fallback position with ITV who will have to pay an extra £20 million for the England games if Setanta can’t show them. The FA Cup coverage is another matter.
My only experience of Setanta abroad is when I holidayed in the States and watched Sky’s coverage with Setanta logo on. So would we really miss them that much apart from James Richardson, Rebecca Lowe and Special One TV?