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ESPN Interested in Bidding for Setanta Sports

According to the Irish newspaper The Sunday Business Post, ESPN has been linked with a possible bid for Setanta Sports. The reporter also mentions that BT and Virgin may also be interested.

If the interest by ESPN is true, it makes perfect sense for the American network that’s owned by Disney. Purchasing Setanta would be an instant ticket to an impressive platform of soccer programming including the Premier League, UEFA Champions League, Scottish Premier League, Championship, FA Cup, Lique Un and much more.

More importantly for soccer fans in America, having ESPN associated with the soccer network should increase the likelihood that the channel would be more readily available on cable networks nationwide. ESPN’s interest in soccer has increased considerably after a very successful 2006 World Cup campaign with impressive TV ratings, and more coverage of Champions League matches than in previous years.

If ESPN wants to get more into soccer, it’s easier for them to buy a network that already has a strong footprint in the sport than to try waiting years to bid for new TV rights deal when they become available.

During the past year, Setanta Sports has achieved some incredible coups by breaking up Sky’s monopoly of the Premiership coverage, which will begin this August with both Setanta and Sky in the UK covering Premier League games. Setanta also recently acquired the rights, alongside ITV, to the England internationals and FA Cup games in the UK beginning next year.

In December 2006, ESPN announced it was acquiring NASN from Setanta. NASN (North American Sports Network) was a European network covering American sports.

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  1. Anonymous

    May 21, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    One word: Disaster.

  2. mike

    April 29, 2007 at 8:58 pm

    Very torn on this issue like many of you… on one hand, as a cable subscriber, I would support anything that brought Setanta to my TV.

    On the other hand ESPN has become a walking promotion for itself, which is becoming more and more brutal by the day. I can’t even watch SportsCenter anymore.


    April 29, 2007 at 5:29 pm

    The threat to Setenta broadband is a concern. I do not think we should stand in full opposition but hold back a bit.

  4. bcjohn02

    April 29, 2007 at 11:14 am

    Sounds to me like it’s time for all of us to unite against ESPN making a bid or purchasing Setanta Sports. With the way they brand everything, it will only turn out badly. They will kill off Rugby, Aussie Rules, the GAA, and only make it football. Now while some may like that, having all those other sports is what makes Setanta so great.

  5. Charlie

    April 29, 2007 at 10:46 am

    Actually, this worries me a little bit too…

    I may be comparing apples to oranges here, but a few years ago ESPN was supposed to be The Proverbial Savior for the National Hockey League. It didn’t happen, and now the NHL is on another network.

    Just as ESPN gouges ISP’s with its Broadband 360 content (which, by the way, I cannot access with my ISP), cable system operators have been known to gouge TV networks when it comes to adding channels.

    Two years after the NHL went to OLN/Versus, there are still some American hockey fans out there who can’t watch it.

    Money isn’t the only issue, there are some cable systems that simply don’t have the room to add new channels.

    Not everything ESPN touches turns to gold. Their recent foray into the cell phone market didn’t even last a year before they pulled the plug on it.

    Changing the name from Setanta to ESPN Setanta isn’t going to be the equivalent of someone waving a magic wand and making everything right.

  6. jeffyhash

    April 29, 2007 at 9:35 am

    I know I’ll be in the minority on this view, but I hope this doesn’t happen.

    The one previous time ESPN bought out another network was Classic Sports Network in 1997. While it wasn’t a top-end network when bought, it was a good channel for more historical sports buffs.

    Today? ESPN Classic. Which has… well, American Gladiators and poker reruns. Maybe the most pointless network on cable today.

    If they kept Setanta management, maybe I would have hope. But they won’t, because they won’t be brand guys. With ESPN, it’s all about the name and it’s power. They will not keep everything the channel has now that’s for sure (I’ll bet that non-EPL soccer will be the first to go). While I originally got Setanta for the EPL, I have grown to love a lot of the programming they offer. They’ll probably change the name to ESPN Europe as well (ugh).

    Also, forget Setanta Broadband. They’ll dump that into ESPN 360 and make it only available to the ISPs they can extort to pay it.

    It’s tempting because we want the EPL available to everyone under the sun. But if you want this, be prepared to lose a lot of what makes Setanta stand out as a sports channel today.

  7. The Gaffer

    April 29, 2007 at 7:34 am

    There are a ton of scam sites out there that display content from other sites (including mine). They’re banking on people visiting money so they can make money from the Google AdSense ads that are displayed on that page.

    The Gaffer

  8. twd3lr

    April 29, 2007 at 7:14 am

    Unrelated to this post specifically, why does it seem that is reposting everything you ever write on this blog?


    April 29, 2007 at 6:08 am

    Well overall great news. If you look back at a forum post or two of mine I thought something of this nature was in the cards.

    The only down side that I see is that I hope if it does happen ESPN decides to let Setanta keep it’s Irish/European character and management. But the thought of ESPN putting Setanta on American cable networks is well victory for us all.

    It’s heaven on earth for the U.S. football fan .

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