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What Will Happen To Setanta US?

Setanta Sports logoWith Setanta UK on the verge of going into administration after losing the TV rights to the Premier League through 2013 in the UK as well as losing the TV rights to the Scottish Premier League, the demise of Setanta UK looks certain. It may be days or hours before the plug is pulled.

The big question is what will happen to Setanta US?

While Setanta UK is floundering, Setanta US is a lean organization with very little overhead, a small staff, no studios or highly-paid presenters and, most importantly, are profitable and retain a large percentage of the rights to the Premier League on US TV for the 2009-2010 season which they had sub-licensed from Fox Soccer Channel. Setanta US also owns the broadband rights to the Champions League for the next three years, as well as many World Cup qualifiers, Carling Cup, Coca-Cola Championship, Russian Premier League, MUTV, Chelsea TV and shares the rights to the FA Cup with Fox Soccer Channel.

If and when Setanta UK goes into administration, Setanta US will continue to broadcast. The only difference will be that any programming that comes out of the UK studios will no longer be available. That includes shows such as Football Matters, the Friday Football Show and presumably Setanta Sports News (which is produced by ITN). As long as Setanta Ireland continues, then Setanta US will continue to show a lot of its popular shows such as Special 1 TV and its pre-game and post-game analysis featuring Paul Dempsey and Pat Dolan. Setanta US often picks up the Setanta Ireland feed for Premier League matches, but even if Setanta Ireland was sold or went out of business, Setanta US would pick up the TWI/IMG international feed for Premier League games instead.

But let’s not kid ourselves. Setanta US, even as a separate organization, is in a perilous position right now. The channel will be tarnished by the negative publicity that has been generated around Setanta UK and has presumably seen a decrease in the number of subscriber sales in the US as well as an increase in the number of cancellations by consumers who are either concerned or confused about the future of Setanta US.

The timing of Setanta UK’s demise is unfortunate for Setanta US. The jewel crown of the TV rights business, the English Premier League, is up for bidding in the United States in a few months from now for the 2010-2013 seasons. If Setanta UK folds and Setanta US survives, the big question is whether Setanta US will still have the funding available to mount a serious bid for the TV rights to the Premier League.

It’s important to point out that ESPN’s acquisition yesterday of a minority of the Premier League TV rights in the United Kingdom was done in co-operation with BSkyB. Sky will end up distributing the Premier League matches for ESPN. BSkyB is owned by Rupert Murdoch who owns News Corp. The giant News Corp owns Sky Sports and Fox, which of course owns Fox Soccer Channel. A precedent has been set for ESPN and Sky to do business deals together (ESPN also works with Sky Sports in Asia for Star Sports), so it’s plausible to assume that Fox Soccer Channel may be interested in agreeing a similar deal with ESPN when the Premier League rights are finalized in the U.S. in the Fall of 2009.

Whether Setanta Sports may be forced out of the US Premier League TV rights race is to be seen, but right now the bigger worry for soccer fans in the United States is whether Setanta US may be bought by ESPN or someone else.

The future of Setanta US should be a grave concern for soccer fans in the United States. Without Setanta US, soccer fans will see a dramatic drop in the quantity and quality of English football coverage. Many of us don’t remember or have forgotten how few games there were on Fox before Setanta became involved. And in many ways we’ve been spoilt the last few years with coverage of almost all Premier League games all season long as well as mid-week Carling Cup games, Coca-Cola Championship matches, friendlies, tons of international games and more.

My hope is that Setanta US continues to run its operation as it has done in the past. But in the world of business and finances, it’s often difficult to know what discussions are going on behind-the-scenes at private companies and whether ESPN are in talks with Setanta US right now or not.

What we do know is that the story is far from over and that soccer fans in the United States should keep track of this evolving drama. Be sure to stay updated to EPL Talk for the latest developments.

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  1. Bruce Pryke

    January 9, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    what about the rugby league from Australia and Super League

  2. RedVT

    July 7, 2009 at 5:39 am

    Good news gang. From the Setanta US website:

    -Setanta Sports is alive and well in the USA-

    New York, July 1, 2009 – In response to some level of customer confusion following the announcement on June 23rd that sports broadcaster, Setanta Sports, is no longer trading in Great Britain, Setanta Sports USA today moved to clarify that it is business as usual in America.

    Setanta Sports US is part of the Setanta Sports International group of companies which also includes the Setanta Sports Canada, Setanta Sports Australia, and Setanta Transmissions, which provides broadcast facilities to all Setanta International channels. None of these businesses has been affected by the closure of the British operation.

    The acquisition of broadcast rights for Setanta Sports US and the other international businesses has always been entirely separate to the rights that were acquired for Setanta Sports in Britain. Accordingly there has been no change to the premium live sports content schedule and broadcasts which includes the upcoming season of the Barclays Premier League, UEFA Champions League, the FA Cup, Coca-Cola Championship and Heineken European Cup, amongst other top-notch programming.

    There has been no change to the Setanta Sports US live and exclusive sports content schedule,” commented Roger Hall, Managing Director, Setanta Sports International. “It’s business as usual and we look forward to the start of the new soccer season as well as providing our partners and subscribers with any additional information during the coming weeks.”

    Looks like we’re good to go for at least this season! Like some others have mentioned, I dread the day ESPN gets involved in broadcasting the EPL in the States. It’s bad enough we have to listen to their commentators during Champions League matches… Ugh. It’s great to hear that Setanta US will be bringing us the 2009/2010 season here in the U.S!

    Cheers from Vermont,


  3. CA_backpacker

    June 29, 2009 at 6:16 pm

    Good stuff Gaffer, keep on this. Footy fans in the US are on a razor’s edge here. I will be a really sad panda if we go back for FSC being the only game in town and getting half, at best, of the EPL games and few of the big tourneys…

  4. Mike

    June 24, 2009 at 6:55 am

    Gaffer – why pay $70 for Dish Network for 3 games, when you can pay $99 dollars for a whole year of rugby on

  5. Mark

    June 23, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    I’m not all that worried about pregame and postgame presentation. As long as I can hear the likes of: Darke, Tyler or Champion calling the matches I wil be very happy. My worst nightmare would be for Max Bretos, possibly the most annoying announcer ever in my opinion, to be allowed anywhere near an EPL broadcast

    • Steve

      June 23, 2009 at 9:35 pm

      Amen Mark – If I bumped into Max Bretos on the street I’d rip his head off. That’s how much I hate him. LOL.

      • Max Bretos

        June 23, 2009 at 11:13 pm


  6. 433

    June 23, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    Good stuff, Gaffer. I’m going to link to here from Wicked Deflection.

    I had a scare there for a moment with the thought of ESPN’s JP Dellacamera doing EPL matches, and over-sized graphics blocking the action on the pitch for long stretches.

    I have been spoiled by the Setanta US coverage, but I have certainly not forgotten how it used to be. I haven’t missed an Arsenal league match in over two seasons, so I was worried for Setanta US until I read the statement they put out about continuing.

    I don’t know the reference to TWI/IMG. I don’t understand why it’s so difficult to put together a decent match intro, halftime report, and post-match analysis. Fox Soccer Channel is a great service, but they’re weak in this area – they’re presenters have no spark.

    The two Irishmen on Setanta have a better tone, they’re not perfect, but you can sense their barely-contained excitement. Setanta’s presentation is the best option we have, and it would be terrible to lose them.

  7. geeza

    June 23, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    you got it wrong there mate. Totally. Premier league is much bigger than La Liga.
    There are 2 teams in spain. Nothing beats the pace and excitment of the premier league. Go into any football boozer when a premier league game is on then go into same boozer for a La liga match. say no more…..

  8. Tony

    June 23, 2009 at 10:25 am

    La Liga has greater upside potential in the US market than the PL. ESPN knows this and with the star power La Liga can now boast, unless ESPN gets the PL package on the cheap or Setanta on the cheap I wouldn’t expect them to dilute their commitment to La Liga on 360, Deportes and ESPN 2 with the Premier League. Also the growing star power of Real Madrid and Barca, combined with the incredible run of the Spanish national team has aligned the stars with Spain and Catalonia for now as the center of world football.

    I doubt ESPN will grab the Prem unless it is at a steep discount. La Liga fits their recent demographic emphasis much better anyhow.

    • The Gaffer

      June 23, 2009 at 10:28 am

      No chance Tony. Other than the Barcelona against Real Madrid match, there is very little interest among English-speaking soccer fans in the United States regarding Spanish football, and the TV ratings are proof of that. Interest will increase in La Liga this season but the Premier League is miles ahead of La Liga in potential and current numbers.

      For the Spanish-speaking audience in the US, it’s a different story entirely.

      The Gaffer

      • RaiderRich

        June 24, 2009 at 3:49 pm

        The #1 league in terms of TV numbers for Spanish speakers is the Mexican Primera Division. Always has been. Always will.

  9. Mike

    June 23, 2009 at 10:11 am

    Setanta goes into administration

    Setanta’s rights to Premier League football have been sold
    The Irish broadcaster Setanta Sports has gone into administration after failing to make a number of payments to sporting organisations.

    The administrator Deloitte said that it would shortly cease broadcasting to customers in Great Britain but would continue to operate elsewhere.

    They said they would immediately stop collecting subscription payments.

    About 200 employees involved with the British operations will be made redundant, the firm said.

    Setanta had a total of 420 employees in the UK and Ireland.

    “This is a sad day for all concerned,” said Sir Robin Miller, chairman of Setanta.

    “Unfortunately, in a difficult and highly competitive market, and despite strenuous efforts by the board and management, it has not been possible to find sufficient additional funds in the time available to ensure its survival.”

  10. eplnfl

    June 23, 2009 at 9:15 am

    Good piece Gaffer. My view is the US viewers are better off with ESPN doing a buy out and putting it’s own brand on it. That doesn’t mean we need American’s giving comment on all the matches but maybe keeping the vast American audience in mind in programming decisions.

  11. Christopher

    June 23, 2009 at 9:01 am

    Even if Setanta US is bought it might turn out okay, especially if they keep their current business model intact. (though it might be even better if a possible new owner could simply market the channel in a basic sports pack instead of standalone subscription service). That seems to be the ESPN plan for the UK–the creation of a standalone channel.

  12. eddie

    June 23, 2009 at 8:48 am

    I wouldnt be too sure setanta ireland will continue as is with Mssrs Dempsey etc as the irish rights are up for grabs this summer too. Expect sky/espn to bid for them as well as the state broadcaster rte for the 3pm (10amest)games. Setanta may survive but probably in a very limited role.

  13. Jason Gatties

    June 23, 2009 at 7:44 am

    I’m not concerned at all. Like I’ve said before, smart people will figure out how to watch the EPL regardless. There are many options out there. I’m more concerned if about Rugby. If Setanta US goes out of business, there will be absolutely no rugby available in this country, which is a fast growing sport here. Setanta is literally our only option.

    You would be a fool to assume that Setanta US will die if there was no premiership coverage. The expat population who enjoy Rugby Union, GAA, Rugby League & Aussie Rules will keep the channel going as long as that programming remains available.

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