Premier League Terminates Contract With Setanta


The Premier League have announced that they have terminated their contract with Setanta Sports in the United Kingdom. That means that Setanta has lost the TV rights for the 2009-2010 Premier League season and will sell the rights to the 46 lives games to the highest bidder.

The bidding deadline for the TV rights to those 46 games in England is Monday. Sky Sports can only pick up one package (23 games), so if they do win the bid for that, the question will be who will buy the final package of 23 games. Will it be ESPN, ITV or the BBC — although it’s doubtful that the BBC will win it due to cutbacks the broadcasting has been making.

UPDATE: Setanta has responded to customer concerns about Setanta US.

“This development does not affect our channels and other services in the US. Setanta Sports in the US is a separate operation that has [a] separate agreement to show the Barclay’s Premier League,” said a statement from Setanta. “Our channels and other services in the US continue to broadcast and our subscribers can still enjoy our programming including the Lions Tour of South Africa and the UEFA U21 European Championship.”

“We thank you for your continued interest in Setanta Sports and look forward to bringing you a wealth of sport over the coming months and years.”

The Premier League set a deadline of today, Friday June 19, 2009, to give Setanta UK time to pay the £30m it owed the Premier League. Now that Setanta has missed that deadline, the future of the broadcaster is up in the air as it has lost its prized package.

Setanta UK also hold the rights for one package of 23 games for the 2010-13 seasons and now that they have defaulted on their payments those also look likely to be up for grabs in the near future.

“The Premier League has been working with Setanta for some time to help them continue as the broadcaster of 46 UK live matches for the 2009/10 season,” the Premier League said.

“The Premier League, in agreement with Setanta, stipulated that certain contractual requirements had to be met on or before Friday 19 June 2009 to allow the preparations for the 2009/10 season to continue unaffected. It is with considerable regret that we announce that Setanta has been unable to meet its obligations. As such the existing licence agreement between us has been terminated with immediate effect.

“The Premier League will now go ahead and market the 46 UK live matches for the 2009/10 season. There will be no further comment until the conclusion of the sales process.”

But according to The Times newspaper, Setanta is expected to fall into the hands of administrators after being stripped of its right to broadcast Premier League games next season and its supposed Russian white knight pulled the rug from under a multimillion pound investment deal.

Hours after the Premier League’s decision, Access Industries, the conglomerate controlled by Len Blavatnik, the American industrialist of Russian origin, which had tabled a £20 million bid for a 51 per cent share in the company, said that its offer was no longer on the table because “certain conditions required to put the business on a long-term viable footing” were not met.

A statement from Access said: “Regrettably, despite intensive efforts on all sides over the past few days, and despite significant progress in a number of areas, there remain a number of issues which we have been unable to resolve within the time available.

“We are disappointed not to have been able to make this deal happen. Access remains committed to sports programming and will continue to explore opportunities in this area.”

The withdrawal of Access combined with the loss of the football rights is likely to prove fatal for the company. Premier League games are the main draw for most of Setanta’s subscribers and without them it could face an exodus of customers.

Deloitte has been lined up as administrator should the group fail.

How does this news affect Setanta North America and Setanta Ireland? The jury is still out. Both the American and Irish divisions of Setanta are profitable and will continue to run their operations. Right now, the news only affects Setanta UK. It’s quite possible that the North American and Irish divisions of Setanta could be sold, but a lot depends on what the administrators advise if and when they step in to help Setanta.

Setanta still shares the TV rights to the US coverage of the Premier League along with Fox Soccer Channel up until the 2009/2010 season. Bidding for the 2010-2013 seasons is expected to be finalized this Fall.

What’s your reaction to the news? And what questions do you have regarding the breaking news? Post them here and we’ll do the best to answer them.


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