ESPN Acquires UK Premier League TV Rights From Setanta

premier-league1Breaking news. ESPN has acquired all 46 live matches for the 2009-10 season on U.K. TV from the Premier League. The rights were previously held by Setanta Sports up until Friday, but when Setanta failed to pay the Premier League the money it owed them, the Premier League opened the bidding up to Sky, ESPN and other interested parties.

The acquisition of the 46 live games in the United Kingdom is a massive coup for ESPN, which will be their first foray into the U.K. TV market. The two packages they won will allow them to broadcast the Saturday teatime games (5:30pm GMT) and Monday evening games (8pm GMT) on UK TV.

The US broadcaster is thought to have paid about £90m for those games, according to industry sources.

ESPN has also bid successfully for 23 games for three seasons from 2010 in a separate deal.

According to The Guardian newspaper, “ESPN has also reached a distribution deal with BSkyB, which will screen the Premier League games it was awarded today from next season and beyond. The US company said it had reached an agreement with Sky, but would also make the games “widely available across multiple pay-TV platforms”. ESPN added that the Sky deal was a “first step” in its distribution strategy, which suggest that further deals with cable operator Virgin Media, and other digital TV operators including Freeview are likely to be struck. ESPN also said that as part of the Sky arrangement, BSkyB would make games available to “commercial customers”, which implies that the pay-TV giant will sell games to pubs on ESPN’s behalf. Sky had a similar arrangement with Setanta.”

Premier League Chief Executive, Richard Scudamore, said: “The Premier League is extremely pleased to have added ESPN as a UK rights holder. They have a formidable worldwide reputation and experience in sports and I am sure we will enjoy a long and fruitful relationship with them.

“I would like to thank ESPN, as well as all the other broadcasters who submitted bids, for their professionalism and effort in engaging in our sales process at such short notice.

“The timescale of our process was tight to say the least, and it is to the great credit of ESPN that they committed themselves to adding Barclays Premier League football to their already impressive portfolio of sports rights.

“The speed at which we have been able to conclude this deal means that the preparations for next season will be able to continue without interruption and fans and clubs will have certainty over the broadcasting of Barclays Premier League matches for the next four seasons.”

Russell Wolff, Executive Vice President and Managing Director, ESPN International, said: “Premier League football is one of the world’s most sought after sports properties. We are very excited to be working with the Premier League and expanding our businesses in the UK.

“This move demonstrates our commitment to British sports fans and our ongoing commitment to delivering football to fans around the world across a variety of media.”

How does this impact soccer fans in the United States? Right now, it makes no difference. ESPN acquiring the rights in the UK will have no influence over the United States since the rights are sold separately in each international market. But what the news does prove is that ESPN is now serious again about soccer coverage. And this could mean that ESPN may be willing to mount a serious bid for Premier League TV rights in the US when they’re available for bidding later this Fall.

Earlier today, ESPN announced that they have made an agreement with GolTV to show some La Liga matches on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes beginning this summer for the next three seasons.

39 thoughts on “ESPN Acquires UK Premier League TV Rights From Setanta”

  1. ESPN does have 2 networks operating in the U.K.: ESPN Classic (U.K.) and ESPN America (U.K.).

    ESPN Classic (U.K.) is older and has more subscribers, making it a suitable outlet for live EPL matches in the U.K. as a stop-gap measure until ESPN launches a live sports TV network targeting the U.K.

  2. So this means I will be able to watch Live and taped delay EPL matches on ESPN, and ESPN 2 in HD ?…they better show these games and not make us pay for them. I have NO way of getting ESPN360 and there is prolly ALOT of people that cant. They also do not show ESPN Deportes around here considering there is not alot of Spanish people around here. They better treat this right and do not have no interuptions with other shows.

  3. No, only ESPN UK gets the matches. We here in America are shutout. Fox Soccer owns all US rights, from my understanding…

  4. We will still get all of our normal lineup of matches from Setanta North America. Will ESPN purchase that channel now?

  5. O well i have fox soccer but that still suck…HD will be nice…surley they can come to an agreement because ESPN and FOX Soccer share rights with the US National Teams

  6. The EPL Picture for 2009-10 in the US is still the same.

    Half on FSC
    Half on Setanta US

    Today’s news puts ESPN in the picture for the US Package for 2010-13 (which is due to be announced this summer).

    1. You know I was a little worried about ESPN handling these games in the US but I would like to see them have it now because of the HD but i would like fox soccer to pick something else up like the Brasilian Serie A which Goltv holds the rights to. So Fox soccer would have a good lineup with the Italian Serie A and the Brasilian Serie A

  7. scotty i dont see what was so bad about that idea. At least you would be getting some of the games in HD. Thats all you could hope for until it comes to Fox Soccer’s contract running out on the rights for the EPL. Until then you will only be watching EPL on Fox Soccer or on the Internet.

    1. Fox Soccer Channel will begin broadcasting in HD from January 2010. However, only a number of game can be broadcast in HD. The Champions League is one of them. The premier leagues matches that kick off 10am (EST) will be in standard definition until at least 2013. That’ s because those games are not currently broadcast in HD in the UK. Those matches are also not shown live in the UK either.

      The 11am Sunday matches on FSC are broadcast in HD in the UK along with the midweek games. Bottom line is though that ESPN US will not show next seasons games. Sentanta US is profitable. The UK arm is not.

  8. To a point I made last week…

    Do we really think Setanta is going to keep its subscribers now that the Premiership is gone? Is the PGA and Rugby enough? I think this just seals it for that network and will, by extension seal it for other versions of the network. Mark my words, Setanta North America will be sold within weeks to help cover the UK debts and to shore up the home Irish network, and ESPN will suddenly have ESPN Soccer at its disposal.

    1. FSC own the rights to the premier league in the US. In the event that Sentanta US is sold. The rights will revert back to FSC.

    2. Ian: The point has been made repeatedly that Setanta US *IS* Profitable as things stand. It’s much more likely that it will either be spun off or sold as is, rather than folded with the rest of Setanta (apparently the Irish audience is profitable too)

  9. This is from Sentanta North America’s website.

    As has been widely reported in various media channels, Setanta Sports has today had its agreement to broadcast 46 Barclays Premier League matches in the UK terminated.

    This development does not affect our channels and other services in the US.

    Setanta Sports in the US is a separate operation that has separate agreement to show the Barclay’s Premier League. 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.

    New customers are welcome to subscribe to watch some of the world’s best soccer and rugby either by contacting our cable and satellite partners or online at

    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.

  10. If Setanta US is sold I would have thought the EPL rights they bought from FSC would go to whoever bought Setanta US. I think it’s fairly likely someone will buy Setanta US as that’s one of the few profitable parts of Setanta.

  11. This is another thing if FSC brodcast in HD it will have a channel called FSCHD and then the standard def FSC. My cable company has seprate channels for these i dunno why. Like i have ESPN and ESPN 2 in standard and i also have them in HD I dont know why but its just like that. So i guess this means I will have to buy the FSCHD channel if they do it that way. Is anybody else’s cable like this ? I cant afford to give money to get a channel in HD when i already have it. although ESPN and ESPN 2 was came on the line up for free in HD but i bet FSC wont

  12. This is bad news – Let’s look at how ESPN handles games:

    I recorded the confederations Cup games yesterday and I choose to watch Brazil vs Italy first. Because it broadcast after the – USA – Egypt game they showed the score of the USA game on the ticker at the bottom – ruining watching that game it later.

    Not only that but they were also advertising that they were broadcasting Spain vs USA on Wednesday. This told me that Italy were not going to score in the game I was watching – ruining my enjoyment of that game!

    There are many other reasons but basically ESPN is run by people who do not understand football and the games are ruined.

    A sad day.

  13. Chris: not everyone has HD and those that do would rather watch the HD version. I know I do. It’s been nice with the confed cup in HD just the retards as commentators is major prob.

    “Let’s raise over voices when something happens and state the obvious!!!” -example of ESPN commentators

  14. SETANTA USA will fold in the next few days or weeks. There is no way they can stay relevant when the parent company has so many issues and losing premier content.

    FOX SOCCER CHANNEL has the rights, but they can arrange a new contract with ESPN For 2009-2010 season (i don’t think Setanta USA will be around, and they will sublicense those games to ESPN). This way FOX SOCCER channel can get some money for that contract.

  15. Brian, I would normally agree with you – but in this case, the last 2 group games are played simultaneously and the announcers are actively commenting on the other game’s score because of the implications –

    Similar to the last weekend of the Premiership, last game of World Cup first round, etc.

    ESPN has done a much better job of not giving away scores during a tape-delayed game (ie Champions League on ESPN Classic) – but you have to cut them some slack from Sunday’s games.

    Now, having said that, I’m not a fan of ESPN’s coverage overall — I hate the constant ticker and not a fan of the announcers – other than Adrian Healy.

  16. John

    I’ll admit, they have got better but there is much, room for improvement.

    You are right, the main cause is the ticker – giving away that Italy were not going to score by posting the future broadcast of USA vs Spain was inexcusable.

    Plus showing the USA score as soon as the Brazil game started didn’t exactly add to the excitment.

    It really means you have to watch the games in the order they were broadcast to minimize damage – which any good football fan will not want to do every time.

    And, yes, the commentators. I though after Fox had got Champions League that it was the end of Mr Negative et al so today’s news was not good.

  17. Still not sure where this leaves us in Canada. I sent an email to Setanta Sports Canada and got exactly the same statement which is on the website. I am worried, because over here our options are distinctly limited:

    Rogers Sportsnet does a pretty good job and is getting better, but is often unreliable in terms of preempting PL games for other sports and they have never covered the FA Cup nor anything else soccer related.

    TSN (our branch of ESPN) is an absolute disgrace when it comes to soccer coverage. Those guys couldn’t cover a Sunday Pub League game and I will never forget this year when they pushed the Champions League Quarter Finals aside for curling. God help us. Curling.

    The Score shows one PL game a week on Sundays and do a nice job with an independently produced Footy show as well, but they are really small potatoes and could never afford to broadcast more than a few games per year.

    This is why Setanta was so fantastic for us and I’m hoping that Rogers (our media giant) will buy out Setanta and continue the service. After all, we still have Circuit City up here!

  18. Re: the TICKER, I attempted to watch the taped-delayed US/Italy game last week on ESPNU (I didn’t know the final). I sat down for two minutes and they showed the final US score within two minutes of the game starting in the darn TICKER. So much for waiting all day to see the game. I sent an e-mail regarding this to ESPN. Idiots.

    If we get their broadcasts in the future, we just have to stay on them until they get it right.

  19. I will take FSC and Setanta over ESPN any day of the week and twice on Sunday. ESPN’s focus will be NFL, College football, MLB, NBA and College Basketball. Soccer – be it Champions League, La Liga, or whatever will never take preference over those other sports unless and until it proves it’ll get better ratings.

    It will get shuffled and moved and in some cases offloaded onto Classic or ESPN U at unpredictable time – forget DVRing or catching a replay later or the next day.

    THIS is what we have to look forward to with ESPN broadcasting any soccer game of note. Not to mention preceeding extra innings baseball that cuts into half of your game, or the damned ticker.

    ESPN had a plan back when the rights went up for sale – wait for Setanta to fall in the desert then fly over and pick at it’s bones. job done.

    can’t wait for chris berman to come up with nicknames for Messi and Kaka. that’ll be awesome. like a crap sandwich.

  20. Sounds like ESPN (UK) will offer the EPL matches on a paid subscription/pay per view basis. That will eliminate the need for ESPN to start a live sports TV channel in the UK, or the need to convert ESPN Classic (UK) into a major sports TV channel right away.

    Setanta Sports UK is all but toast.

    What will happen to Setanta Sports Ireland, Setanta Sports Australia, Setanta Sports USA, and Setanta Sports Canada (which is 80% owned by Rogers SportsNet with Setanta Sports North America holding only a 20% stake)?

    Your guess is as good as mine.

  21. I have Verizon FIOS and FSCHD is already included with the regular FSC. Its just a different channel. I don’t have to pay extra for it.

  22. My concern about ESPN ever broadcasting the EPL in the States has everything to do with the club I support. With the Setanta/FSC combo, I was able to watch a record number of Fulham matches this past season (many on Setanta).

    I have a feeling that if ESPN ever picks up the US rights to the EPL, then every week my options will be to watch Chelsea, Man U, Aresenal & Liverpool play whoever they play. My options for watching Fulham will probably go down the crapper unless FSC offers us an option.

  23. how will we in uk view espn’s EPL coverage? on sky-box? or freeview box? or what?…surely they will not try to rob us and go for pay per view system.

  24. the people on espn don’t know anything about football that’s why the call it soccer, and they are bias. That’s why I don’t watch Mls, we are just screwed.

  25. When ESPN broadcasts La Liga and EPL games, they have to get rid of that stupid, uneccessary ticker at the bottom of the screen. It is outdated anyway, if people are interested, they can just get info on sports scores from the internet.
    The true soccer fans in the U.S. have to call, write, or e-mail ESPN and let them know that we don’t want that stupid ticker on the bottom of the screen.

  26. Interesting! Does anyone know how south africans will be affected by this? We never had setanta over here but supersport (our sport giant) broadcasted 5-8 games live every week (including the monday night games) and the others delayed. We do get ESPN but it shows american sports, fishing, x games, worlds strongman, poker, billiard and a few champions league games.

  27. for me in england its just a case of giving setanta the sack and subscribing to espn uk. we have to pay 9 quid if you have the sky sports pack and 12 if you dont.

  28. The46 matchesfor £9 per month = £2.34 per match is good value. The problem I and possibly millions of other fans is we only want to see matches that involve the club we follow. I have looked at the first 17 games you are covering and I would only watch 2 games so it is not viable. would it be possible to make the channel encrypted at some thing close to £3 per match and also the £9 per month giving fans 2 options, it would suit me and I am sure millions of others. £3 per match could be very profitable. @£3 per game multiplied by several million must surely be worth consideration

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *