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What’s Happening With Setanta US?

setanta-sports-logoIt’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).

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  1. nmedb

    August 3, 2009 at 5:13 am

    They just added espn classic where I live and where did they put it right next to FSC and Gol tv. I think that we will see a rebranding of classic in the next few months when Setanta gets outbid for the Prem and when ESPN starts showing La Liga and Bundesliga every weekend

  2. Ibracadabra

    August 2, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    Why won’t Setanta-I show the preseason Chelsea games (chelsea TV) OR the audi cup that MAN U are playing in? What am I paying $15 a month for?

    • Mark Flint

      August 3, 2009 at 6:49 pm

      That preseason vs Reading on Chelsea TV was worth at least 15 bucks!
      Wasn’t it?

  3. RaiderRich

    July 31, 2009 at 10:45 am

    For whatever it’s worth, here’s the quarterly report for News Corp from May

    Here’s Disney’s quarterly report (released yesterday):

  4. olivert

    July 30, 2009 at 10:36 pm

    I am skeptical of ESPN’s interest in bidding for the U.S. video rights to EPL.

    However, if ESPN, Inc. were to bid big and end up with all 380 EPL matches each season during the next contract cycle, then I would expect ESPN, Inc. to put at least 9 out of 10 games each round inside a pay-subscription package. $299 per month or $15 per week would be about the right price in my opinion.

    The “10th game” each week could end up on ESPN2 or ESPN Classic if the FAPL were to insist that one game each week be available to 80% of U.S. TV households, as the FAPL will now require in the Mainland China market after the “Big 4” (and especially Manchester United, which operates a “megastore” at the Venetian Macau casino) complained about the lack of TV exposure in the past 2 seasons in China due to rightsholder GuangDong TV pricing pay-subscription channel WinTV out of reach of affordability of 99% of cable TV households.

    • The Gaffer

      July 31, 2009 at 9:19 am

      Hi Oliver,

      I respectfully disagree with your prediction. No way would English football fans have the money to spend $299 per month (equivalent to $3,588 per year) to pay to watch the Premier League on PPV. For that much money, I could buy the most expensive season ticket to the Emirates Stadium and still have money left over for trips to London to watch the games in person.

      If ESPN charged soccer fans $15 per week for the Premier League, that would kill the Premier League’s success in this country.

      If ESPN won the US video rights to the Premier League, they would be better off sub-licensing most of the games to Fox, Setanta and GolTV — and then showing the biggest games of the week on one of the ESPN channels.

      The Gaffer

      • olivert

        July 31, 2009 at 1:36 pm

        I meant $299 per season, not $299 per month, for 9 (out of 10) EPL games per round in a pay subscription package.

        The pay-by-the-week price would be around $15 a month.

        In the aftermath of the GuangDong TV/WinTV fiasco in Mainland China, the FAPL is considering carving out a 38-game package of EPL games to be sold only to “free-to-air” broadcasters (or in markets with heavy cable TV penetration such as Canada, Germany, and the U.S., channels with 70-80% household penetration).

        If the U.S. market were included in the proposed EPL “free-to-air” carveout, then FOX Cable would have to offer to put 38 live EPL matches FSN regional sports network affiliates while ESPN, Inc. will have to offer to put 38 live EPL matches on ESPN2 in order to satisfy the household penetration requirement before they submit their bids.

  5. RIP

    July 30, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    I also want to thank you for doing this type of research. It is impossible to find any information about Setanta US anywhere else. Health Care Reform? Setanta US is the important issue of the day. It also looked like they are keeping Ligue 1 coverage this year too. That is good news.

  6. RIP

    July 30, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    I think ESPN has shown its cards a bit with the La Liga arrangement with GolTV. Why have exclusivity if you can get a few flagship games a week? It will be interesting to see what channel shows the Real and Barca games this season. I think we will get some answers about a new channel with that arrangement.

  7. TheFatPanda

    July 30, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    I’m hesitant about the door opening for ESPN, but if it’s just 1-2 games per week and the rest are still available like normal…it actually could allow for those 9th and 10th games that sometimes don’t get shown at all by Setanta/FSC to be shown.

    I can do without the 24-hour scroll on the bottom, terrible announcers (Rae is good…just let him work alone!), changing timeslots/channels between Classic, ESPN2, ESPN, godawful pre- and halftime shows with Alexi Lalas the failure as a GM in every sense speaking about teams he doesn’t know about, the sideline reporters covering the screen while the game is going on, and oh I could go on…

    but…I bet 50% of their games would be Man U anyways and who cares about them so CHEERS if it’s ESPN.

  8. eplnfl

    July 30, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    As JS said put your money down on ESPN getting the early Saturday start and Monday night football. Fits into there schedule on current channels no problem at all! Mid-week specials could be another good slot for them. Do not discount that ESPN will make a pitch for a new time slot game just for them such as the aforesaid mid-week. ESPN has a history with the NFL of creating new time slots. A Friday night game is not out of the question

    • steve

      July 31, 2009 at 8:10 am

      I don’t know about ESPN getting a new time slot….they may pitch for it, but they’d get laughed at…that would be like Sky Sports getting the NFL to put on a Saturday afternoon game every week of the season so the Brit audience has someting to show in prime time Saturday nights. That’s not going to happen.

      We have to remember, the EPL is British, not American. The British channels/public will dictate when the games are….the US time slots will just have to fit in the games whenever they show them.

  9. CA_backpacker

    July 30, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    If Setanta US loses its EPL rights down the road, it is dead. I ain’t paying close to $15/month for rugby, lol.

    So…does this mean “Special 1 TV” will survive into this upcoming season??

    • Adam Childress

      July 30, 2009 at 7:41 pm

      the epl is my favorite but I have also enjoyed watching the afl, hurling, and gelic football, I havent been able to get into the rugby. Hopefully setanta us will become bigger and better over the comming years.

    • The Gaffer

      July 30, 2009 at 9:02 pm


      The latest word on Special1 TV is that Setanta Ireland is working very hard to keep the programme on the air. Fingers crossed they’ll be work something out.

      The Gaffer

    • RaiderRich

      July 31, 2009 at 10:11 am

      It should still be in production… if US goes under, they would need to find a distributor. Why not Versus after Sports Soup?

      Speaking of Versus, anyone know if Comcast might be taking a look at Setanta U.S.?

  10. Adam Childress

    July 30, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    I hope espn dosnt get the rights….at least with setanta and fsc they replay the games all day long so you wont miss a minute of action…where I believe espn would only air live when people are sleeping or at work.

    • Jay

      July 30, 2009 at 3:47 pm

      ESPN replays everything they show on tv on ESPN360. And then there also something called a DVR.

  11. Drew

    July 30, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    No offense, but I lived in England and heard these arguments for years. ESPN was going to come in and break Sky’s monopoly and they had the money to do it. What ends up happening? Years later Setanta goes bankrupt, Sky is unable to have all the packages so ESPN finally makes it long awaited entrance when really they were basically handed the packages.

    So I just don’t buy the whole idea that ESPN is waiting to make its big move on the US EPL rights.

    Also while it appears that Sky & ESPN are getting along in the UK, I can guarantee you that they are going to do whatever possible to not let ESPN win the rights from FSC. But my opinion is that ESPN will not even put in a serious bid….

    • David Yellope

      July 30, 2009 at 1:16 pm

      Drew, does a direct quote from John Skipper, the Executive VP of content from ESPN, change your mind? (I got this from

      The U.S EPL rights are held by Fox Soccer Channel and are expected to come up for renewal in the next couple of months. Skipper said his network is interested and does not have to have exclusivity. As first reported by Sports Business Daily, the EPL is making a three-year package available, from the 2010-11 season through the 2012-13 season. “We are very interested and we have relayed our interest to Mr. [Premier League chief executive Richard] Scudamore,” Skipper said. “We are interested in all kinds of soccer.”

      • Drew

        July 30, 2009 at 4:53 pm

        No it doesn’t mean much to me. ESPN said they were interested in EPL rights in UK for years before they made any move.

        • equals42

          July 31, 2009 at 10:23 am

          It seems to me that ESPN waited until the price was right. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to see that SetantaUK overpaid for the EPL rights. It was the general consensus when Setanta bought them. Just because ESPN had a desire to enter the UK market doesn’t mean they needed to overpay to get in. That kind of move ends careers.

          I say, “Well played, ESPN.”

          Now let’s see what they do with US EPL rights. They could force SetantaUS into the same mistake here or just plain outbid them. The credit market is tight and I would guess ESPN has more in the bank to use to squeeze out a minor competitor. GolTV’s interest is likely just a feint to try to push the prices up even higher for competitors.

  12. David Yellope

    July 30, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    I put up a post on BigSoccer’s TV Satellite & Radio board about ESPN and how it has a knock on effect on the other networks. I won’t link to it, but I go into it more over there

    Drew, here’s the thing. Nick Skipper the executive VP of content (IE, the guy who determines what rights packages ESPN will go for) has stated publicly that he wants the EPL rights going forward, and that exclusivity is not a requirement.

    So, if ESPN has the will to bid (and it appears that they do), and the money to bid (come on, they’re worth $30 billion!), They are there for the taking.

    In the last EPL Contract, where Setanta and FSC only paid $57 million for three years, even if the rights double, do you think that ESPN would blink at paying $25-30 million a year for a possible bench mark for a whole new channel? That’s arena football money, there.

    If ESPN does purchase the EPL rights, they can then sublicense some games either to FSC or Setanta. I do not think there’s a lot of bonhomie between ESPN and FSC right now, after FSC aggressively outbid ESPN for the Champions League rights. So, completely cutting FSC out of THE premier international league rights would be a huge counter-punch by ESPN

    • Johnathan Starling

      July 30, 2009 at 12:43 pm

      David, plausible theory until you say the words ‘new channel’. That will not happen.

      If ESPN rebrands classic into something else, they have to go back to Cable/Sat/IPTV companies and renegotiate their fees. For that alone it won’t happen. From everything I’ve read, every single company that has to deal with ESPN for TV companies are not happy with how they deal with things now. I’ll stick with my theory of the only reason Comcast finally got ESPN360 was because ESPN wanted to switch ESPN U and ESPN Classic around the packages.

      I personally don’t think ESPN will be getting a major chunk of Premier League rights. What I do see however is Fox/Setanta/ESPN splitting games. Here’s how I think the rights will shake out:
      Saturday Lunchtime: ESPN
      Saturday Traditional: FSC and Setanta splitting games.
      Saturday Teatime: FSC
      Early Sunday: Setanta
      Late Sunday: FSC
      Monday Night: ESPN

      With regards to broadband rights, I could see ESPN picking up the broadband rights for the Premier League, except for the games Setanta airs.

      As for Setanta US being sold to the US, I don’t see it happening. It will always be something bloggers will end up discussing. However, if Setanta is close to profit if not making a profit, they have no need to sell. Yes it has been a quiet summer for them, but it was going to need to be in order to mythically hit the reset button and start a fresh once the new season begins.

      • David Yellope

        July 30, 2009 at 1:14 pm

        There are the constant rumors about the rebranding of Classic (we already see that some spillover happens during the collegefootball game, for example, several Army football games were aired on ESPN Classic last year). And the role of “replaying past classic college games” has been taken from them by ESPN U. How long can you re-run american gladiators and poker, and call it a network? So I can see either Classic or ESPN Desportes transformed into a soccer/interational network

        Yes, Setanta is currently profitable, or at least, break-even. BUT, if they do not get any part of the EPL rights, going forward, can they remain a going concern? I do not think so.

        As for your suggestions that all three networks all get a slice of the action… I don’t see a three network solution working well, too much risk of diluting the product.

      • yaz96

        July 30, 2009 at 1:50 pm

        I don’t understand your thinking about the schedule for ESPN. EPL will take precedence over College Football and Monday Night Football?? I don’t think so. You need to go back to the drawing board.

        • steve

          July 30, 2009 at 2:02 pm

          how does a Saturday morning game at 730am eastern time or a Monday afternoon game @ 300pm on ESPN2 interfere with college football or basketball?
          It doesn’t…..there is absolutely room on existing ESPN channels for the EPL.

          ESPN would only need a new channel if they accumulated rights fees for multiple European leagues.

          • yaz96

            July 30, 2009 at 2:16 pm

            I thought he meant ESPN would be airing those matches in OUR time zones at those times.

            I don’t think we’ll see a new channel from ESPN either. Maybe Poker ratings are down………

  13. Drew

    July 30, 2009 at 11:44 am

    I think its time you let the wet dream of ESPN getting the EPL packages out of your head.

    FSC & Setanta are happy working with each other and I don’t see anything that would signal that is going to change for the 2010-13 packages.

    Setanta North America is even more important to the company than before. Do you really think that these guys put in their own money to buy the North American service and then don’t do everything they can to get the EPL packages? If they don’t get them the company is doomed and their money is gone…

    • The Gaffer

      July 30, 2009 at 11:50 am

      Drew, it all comes down to money. There’s no doubt that ESPN, Fox Soccer Channel, Setanta Sports and GolTV, to a lesser extent, will be battling for the Premier League rights for the US market in the next few weeks/months. And the one who bids the most amount of money wins.

      The Gaffer

      • Patrick

        July 30, 2009 at 10:13 pm

        Here’s the thing. GolTv and ESPN are free (or at least in the sports package) on most cable/ sat providers.

        Setanta’s 15 a month model is just not going to hold up with Bristol in the lurch. Mix in fact that most games are free on the net with streaming sites, you have a model for ruin for Setanta long run.

        If I was ESPN, I’d bid for the net rights first. Get these games on espn360. But I’m not a fan of ESPN trying to Americanize the games.

        NOW! If I was the marking guy for the PL, I’d set up a pay per month internet site, set up for the world. Where you get every one of the games. EVERY ONE. I have no interest in Hull v Chelsea first week, But I’d love to see wolves v West Ham in high quality. and I’d pay to see it if I was certain the stream wouldn’t die.

        MLB has won the online game with its MLB package, it has a ton of features and great quality. and does just this.

        Digital rights are where the future is, and to use a cliche, the future is now…

        Besides in the next 5 years close to a majority of US homes will have PCs ( or something like a PC) attached to their TVs. If you put up a stream of all my teams games I’d buy it, and all those windows boxes appletvs, 360’s, wii’s, playstations now having web access and attached to the entertainment center it really is the way to go if you are hoping to market on a global front.

        the idea of Setanta is still based in 90’s TV habits… and their online offering was so poorly marketed, and lacked the meat and potatoes games like the stupid closed circuit internationals. 25 bucks to see Ireland play? even England, its a rip off. I’ll just head over to veetle and watch it full screen on my TV off my mac mini. for free.

        • Drew

          July 31, 2009 at 12:02 am

          Thank God you have nothing to do with television….. You seem to be lacking in the brain department

          • Patrick

            July 31, 2009 at 7:36 am

            Thanks Drew. clearly I’m just stupid and ignorant. enlighten me please… How do you beat the illegal streams on the web when there is a thirst for more and more games? Put Liverpool V Stoke on GolTv? Fullham v Arsenal on FSC? Chelsea V Hull on Setanta?

            Wouldn’t it be really smart to control your own message world wide and reap in the profits yourself? If we know one thing about the PL powers that be, is that they like money.

            This isn’t the best comparison, but once the Yankees dumped their local TV contract and formed their own, the value of the club nearly doubled to close to a billion.

            The PL lusts after the US and Asia markets, why not offer a high quality stream to go along with the free games on FSC. That is a model people would pay for if you could see every one of your clubs games.

            But I’m stupid so I’ll just shut up.

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