It’s amazing what a difference a year makes. Last summer, the majority of summer friendlies involving Premier League teams were televised live on Setanta US. This summer, though, Setanta US has shown zero friendlies and the majority of games have been aired by either Fox Soccer Channel, GolTV and ESPN360.
This summer, Fox Soccer Channel has televised friendlies from Liverpool’s Asia tour, while GolTV has been broadcasting the games from the 2009 Peace Cup featuring Aston Villa and will be televising the 2009 Emirates Cup featuring Arsenal. ESPN360 meanwhile have shown the Audi Cup featuring Manchester United and the Amsterdam Cup featuring Sunderland.
On Setanta US, it’s unfortunately been a summer of soccer re-runs. Fox Soccer Channel aired the Gold Cup, while ESPN has been riding the crest of the wave from its coverage of the Confederations Cup. For once, Setanta US has been extremely quiet — understandably so after the future of the company was in doubt and their UK division went into administration.
Setanta US and Setanta Ireland moved a big step closer to safety Monday when Setanta founders bought 100% of the shares in Setanta Sports North America Ltd., while the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland backed changes in the ownership structure for Setanta Ireland that will allow Setanta founders to own 40% of the company. The remaining shares go to Denis Desmond’s Gaiety Investments has increased its stake in Setanta Sports Channel Ireland Limited from 20% to 60%.
However, Setanta are not completely out of the woods yet. The company, which is reportedly making a profit or near profit, still could be an asset that a company such as ESPN may be interested in purchasing. Setanta has rights to a plethora of TV and online coverage including the Champions League (all online games), Carling Cup, FA Cup (shared with Fox), Championship (shared with ESPN), MUTV, World Cup qualifying matches, Chelsea TV and more.
The next few weeks to months are crucial for Setanta US as the TV rights for the 2010-2013 seasons of the Premier League are up for bidding in the United States. With tough competition from ESPN and Fox Soccer Channel — plus the fact that GolTV has expressed an interest in showing Premier League games — Setanta US should be concerned that they may be squeezed out.
In the meantime, Setanta US are still in business and are planning ahead for their coverage of the 2009/2010 Premier League season on US television alongside Fox Soccer Channel (view TV schedule).