The 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.