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ESPN and Setanta To Team Up To Beat Fox?

premier-league.jpgThe Guardian newspaper is reporting that ESPN and Setanta Sports are expected to team up to try to win the U.S. TV rights to the Premier League from Fox Soccer Channel for the 2010-2013 seasons.

The relationship between Setanta and ESPN is already close. In October 2008, Setanta Sports sub-licensed some of its internet rights to ESPN 360 for its coverage of the Carling Cup, Coca-Cola Championship and Football League matches. In Europe, Setanta sold its NASN network to ESPN in 2006. Just this week, there were reports in the British press that Setanta and ESPN have held talks to discuss teaming up to share the TV rights in the UK. Plus, there was plenty of speculation from 2007 onwards that ESPN was interested in buying Setanta Sports.

With the cost of the TV rights expected to rise in the US TV market, it would be very difficult for one TV network to be able to justify the expense of paying for the exclusive rights to the Premier League. It’s very possible that two networks will share the costs, just as Fox Soccer Channel and Setanta Sports currently do.

The challenge with a Setanta and ESPN partnership in the United States is that Setanta still isn’t available on most major cable networks, while ESPN currently doesn’t have room on its networks for additional soccer coverage. The formation of an ESPN 3 seems possible.

If Setanta and ESPN were able to prise the Premier League coverage away from Fox, that would be a severe blow to Fox Soccer Channel’s programming. The Premier League matches are the highest rated programs on its network, and the TV ratings for Major League Soccer and Serie A games pale in comparison. If Fox did lose the Premier League, I would imagine they would make a big push to pick up coverage of La Liga, but current rights holder GolTV would have a lot to say about that. Plus, there’s the possibility that ESPN and Setanta Sports may team up to bid on the TV rights to La Liga too.

What are your thoughts about a potential ESPN and Setanta partnering to bring you Premier League TV coverage? Click the comments link below and share your thoughts.

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  1. Jay

    February 6, 2009 at 11:54 pm

    If FSC want to get serious about the EPL here in the US they should re-brand themselves to Sky Sports America.

    ESPN should get the US rights for the EPL. Matches can easily be shown on ESPN 2 or ESPN Classic/ESPN 3. They can shift to ESPN once college football is done whoring the saturday fall schedule.

    They could easily show a 10 and 130 matchup on Saturdays and 11 on Sunday with no problems. They also have ESPN360 which is a great platform.

  2. BD

    February 6, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    Sound like a great chance to see EPL in HD and mayb the BIG games on ABC.

  3. goohst8

    February 6, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    Check out the schedule during football season. Good luck seeing an EPL game until mid-december. I think this would be terrible for football fans.

  4. JC

    February 6, 2009 at 7:47 am

    I love Fox Soccer, but it would be great to get it without having to pay extra for a sports package. Why isn't Fox Soccer a standard package like ESPN?

  5. Black Hornet

    February 6, 2009 at 5:31 am

    I agree that there will be challenges with the EPL on ESPN and in some cases ESPN2 during the football season, but for sure you can bet that a big 4 clash would be carried live somewhere regardless of the season. The only challenging timeslot would be the Saturday late game.

    But if they team up with Setanta and use ESPN Classic (unfortunately to show tape delayed) and Deportes (which I'm sure they'll use this to push Deportes onto the English sports tier like GolTV does) they can make it happen. Pus remember – some of these will be using the feed from the games they broadcast in the UK.

    I can easily see them moving OTL and Sports Reporters to a different time (or network) to accomodate a Man U vs Liverpool game.

  6. rfinterference

    February 6, 2009 at 1:56 am

    Seconded. They kept hockey quarantined to a select set of specialists (Barry Melrose, Melrose's mullet, etc) even back when they were showing NHL games (most coverage now is on regional Fox Sports channels and Versus). Maybe it winds up on Sportscenter, but why on Earth are you watching Sportscenter?

    Fox Soccer is on higher tier of cable than basic. I think there are advantages to getting EPL coverage people with cable don't have to pay extra for.

    I also wouldn't worry about EPSN horribly commercializing the EPL. I live in the States. Had a good laugh when the same ex-pats at the pub I watch matches at, who will take any opportunity to rip America sports for their stadium music and other sins, were making fun of West Ham for not having a sponsor on their kit. Remember in 2004 when MLB tried to put advertisements for Spiderman 2 on the bases and fans almost rioted?

  7. rfinterference

    February 6, 2009 at 1:46 am

    The games I've seen on ESPN (the MLS stuff) run small adverts during the matches at the bottom of the screen. Could be a source of ad revenue to help counter how much money they're getting schilling for outboard motors.

  8. cftv37

    February 5, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    Its don't see ESPN going after all 6 or 7 packages that the Premiership provides rights to world wide week in and week out. The 12pm Saturday game just won't fit ESPN 2's schedule because of college football and basketball and that is a game that can always license out to Setanta or FSC. There are up to 4, 10am games a weekend that are shown here in the States with 2 live and 2 on tape delay usually later in the day. Those games can be shown on FSC or Setanta as well. For me the dream ticket would be for ESPN to get the 7:30am game and the 1st choice 10am game on Saturdays. FSC getting the 2nd choice game at 10am, the noon game, and split the other 10am game with Setanta during half the year like they do with Nascar. . I would love to see Setanta get out of the pub business and go after the Old Firm games live on weekends and the 3rd choice Prem Game, followed by the Championship at noon, and finishing out the afternoon with either the French League or Dutch League.

    Sunday's I would be happy with ESPN 2 getting the double header on Sunday Morning, allowing FSC to show more Serie A games and either the French or Dutch league which ever one Setanta doesn't go after.

    If GOL keeps up with the German League in the morning and La Liga with the rights to show 3pm or 4pm La Liga Games they would be pretty golden. I have to say would be perfect for ESPN 2 to pick up the early La Liga game that they can show on Deportes as a lead up to the Mexican League Games that I am pretty sure they show late in the afternoon.

    I just don't see the Prem ever being shown on the flagship ESPN Network as SportsCenter in the Morning along with College Football Gameday or the new College Hoops show they are doing in the morning ever being dropped for the Prem. And absolutely forget on Sunday's where SportsCenter, Outside the Lines, the Sports Reporters, and the NFL Pre-Game show during the fall months along with more coverage of Sportscenter when football season is going on.

    I am in the club that wants to see the Prem shown on ESPN 2 because it will grow the game with 90 million household clearances compared to 30 million or so that FSC has.

  9. cftv37

    February 5, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    Lets look at the programming that is shown this weekend on ESPN 2 starting at 6:30am until noon on Saturday. I say 6:30am because that would allow ESPN 2 to do a good solid one hour pre-game show if they were to go after the 7:30am and one of the 10am games on Saturday.

    6:30am – World of Saltwater Fishing
    7am – Going Coastel
    7:30am – Beat Charlie Moore
    8am – Day on the Lake
    8:30am – Fishing Show
    9am – Bassmasters
    10am – Bassmasters
    11am – SporstCenter

    Look at what is on from say 8am to 1pm on ESPN 2 this Sunday. which would provide the ability to show a 1/2 hour pregame and the 8:30am and 11am games.

    8am – Offshore Adventures
    8:30am – Fishing Adventures
    9am – Going Coastal
    9:30am – Spanish Fly
    10am – Beat Charlie Moore
    10:30am – Auction Block
    11:30am NHRA Race Day
    12pm – Lucal Oil Pro League Tractor Pull
    12:30pm – Women's College Gymnastics.

    What ESPN has to really ask themselves is while those shows don't draw great ratings they do provide a lot of advertising because there are a ton of Fishing, Outdoors, and Car Company that sell their products .

    I just wonder does the lack of commercials during the run of a soccer game make it worth the 100 Million or whatever it will cost to prise the Premiership Rights away from FSC.unless they can get real top notch corporate advertisers that want to sponsor the pre-games, half time, and post-game shows and in this current climate of not too many big companies wanting to spend money.

    My question is if Disney does make a play for the Premiership would the move their fishing programs to ESPN Classic if indeed there is that rule that ESPN Classic can only show 10 hours of live sporting events a week.

    Very interesting topic!

  10. SJ

    February 5, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    great article, dioforce, do you have a point of view on the number of games– ie today between fsc and setanta one can, if one desires, see as many as 7 or 8 of the 10 matches in each epl round– it is hard for me to see how espn matches that and to me that would be a big loss–

  11. dioforce

    February 5, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    I wrote a huge article on this very subject here:

    FSC have blown their chance to cover EPL with any quality. Their production is atrocious. Their studio shows are atrocious. FSR makes my eyeballs bleed. ESPN has some great talent like Allen Hopkins. Millions more would watch on ESPN because so many meatheads already have their TVs tuned into those channels each and every waking moment. The game needs ESPN to succeed in America.

  12. SJ

    February 5, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    My guess is that ESPN sees the EPL as niche programming in the US (niche being good in a world of 500 channels– the US footy fan will move heaven and earth to watch and is loyal and consistent). Further ESPN gains credibility with the world football community by becoming the US home of “world football”.

    My biggest concern is actually not about the live big match of the week but about replays- or a lack of them— the wonderful thing to me about FSC and setanta is if you are a supporter of a mid table team you still often get to see your club's games– albeit on tape delay or repeat– later on saturday or sunday or during the week. I find it hard to believe ESPN will make time to show stoke v spurs on tape delay on saturday afternoon and to me that will be a loss- especially since i DVR most matches any way.

    Have any of you who are concerned watched the ESPN soccernet press pass show that is now on twice a week on espn classic? They do a decent job of what I consider a very british format of having 3-4 people talk calmly about the issues of the day without using primary sources or special features (ie player and manager interviews- there are almost none)

  13. Maur

    February 5, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    I hope this does happen. Though I would of preferred ESPN and Fox teamed up.
    I don't see how ESPN can ruined this as their not producing the broadcast, their just showing the feed.
    As far as integrating it into PTI and such like show, I don't think you need to worry about that unless Joey Barton punches someone on the pitch.

  14. Panda

    February 5, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    I feel like I'm the only one who wants to see this happen. I've said it for years now, this is the best thing that could happen to soccer in this country so who cares if we have to deal with ESPN's BS.

    ESPN can afford to show soccer on ESPN and ESPN2 most weekends. All they show early in the morning is SportsCenter anyway. Before Sunday NFL Countdown they could show the two early games on Sunday and (while not ideal) tape delay the late game to start at 1est/10pst after NFL Countdown.

    Saturdays would be trickier though, during college football season. It would most likely be relegated to ESPN2 or another channel in the fall but moved to fill that void after the season.

    Besides, where are all these fears about ESPN ruining the game coming from. Did we not enjoy their coverage of the Euros? There's obviously someone behind the scenes steering the ship properly.

  15. AZBlue

    February 5, 2009 at 11:56 am

    I fear that anything involvning Setanta will become cost prohibitive. I have DirecTV, and Setanta is $15/month for 1 channel! Fox Soccer is packaged with a “Sports Bundle” that costs $12 a month and includes NBATV, CBS College channnel, ESPNU, and EVERY regional sports channel in America (except most live programming).

    I had Setanta, and am torn, because I prefer FSC's EPL coverage and shows, but am also a casual fan of Rugby and Aussie Rules. If ESPN and Setanta are going to join forces, the cost's will have to come down, but I would love to see an ESPN Football only channel – “All Codes – All the time”. Soccer, Rugby, Aussie Rules, Canadian, Gaelic, there's plenty of football out there to fill a broadcast day . . .

  16. Patrick

    February 5, 2009 at 11:05 am

    Mate, I have to disagree. ESPN pushes whatever it is selling. Whatever sporting events are being broadcast on their networks or on ABC is given an extra amount of coverage in all the shows you mentioned. It makes business sense, but it is the reason why ESPN spends so much time hyping certain events that don't seem to merit the coverage.

  17. AtlantaPompey

    February 5, 2009 at 10:58 am

    I don't see ESPN ruining football coverage because they have so much else to cover. They won't force it onto shows like 1st & 10, PTI, Around the Horn, Jim Rome is Burning(in hell, I hope). It may get the occasional mention on those shows, but very rarely. It will have more of a presence in both SportsCenter and ESPNews, but with just highlights. They will leave the analysis to the people on ESPNSoccernet Presspass, which will be fine.

    That more channels are competing to show football is fantastic. More options for us. They will pick up more leagues from all over the world, which is a good thing for fans of the game. We already see more live football from around the world than probably any other country. England, Italy, Spain, Germany, US, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Honduras. I've seen in the channel guide on DirecTv live broadcasts from all of those countries. What other country gets all of those live? or tape delayed?

  18. Sandlapper Spike

    February 5, 2009 at 10:58 am

    “The formation of an ESPN 3 seems possible.”

    I have read comments from a poster on another site suggesting that ESPN Classic cannot be converted into a channel featuring a lot of live sporting events because of a carriage agreement between ESPN and some of the cable distributors. Does anyone know if that is in fact the case?

  19. Patrick

    February 5, 2009 at 8:43 am

    I don't want ESPN broadcasting EPL matches. I've always felt that the EPL was a hidden gem in the sporting landscape, untouched by all that I hate about the American sporting landscape. It is a beautiful game and a wonderful league, untarnished by the corrosive influences of SportsCenter, Stuart Scott and 1st and 15. I fear that I will become horribly sick when I hear Skip Bayless discussing an upcoming Man United/Liverpool clash. Listening to these imposters who have never watched an EPL match in their lives have to become instantly familiar with hundreds of players, dozens of clubs, tactics, managers, parks, etc., will be a nightmare. The lads at Fox Soccer Channel have a tough enough time with it and soccer is all they show.

    I worry that ESPN will ruin it. They will have their “Coors Light Six Pack of Questions” about Manchester City's spending. They will have their “Budweiser Hot Seat” featuring Rafa Benitez–although I'd like to see that. This can not and will not be good.

    All of the sudden this country will be overrun with instant soccer experts who have watched less than a dozen games in their lives. Remember this: anything that ESPN says will be popular becomes popular. Look at poker. They've already started putting EPL highlights in their top 10's. Occasionally they show the EPL scores on the ticker on weekends of high profile matches. Slowly, the integration of soccer is beginning. DO NOT WANT. They will ruin it, my friends. They will ruin it like they ruin everything.

  20. jbdavis1

    February 5, 2009 at 7:11 am

    I think the most important part of a potential ESPN-Setanta merger is: what will happen to IOSS/Special 1 TV?

  21. rfinterference

    February 5, 2009 at 6:25 am

    Considering the times EPL matches are shown here in the states due to the time difference (-5 through -8 hours), I think ESPN might be able to incorporate the EPL into their current schedule.

    I don't think a lot of high rated programming is running at 7:30 AM on ESPN 2 during the weekends (nor at 2:00 PM weekdays).

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