It’s been a bad week for Setanta Sports, struggling to meet its payments, it’s been forgotten the channel shows events other than football. Julian Clover is pitchside.
Football economics have always been bewildering. Generally speaking, give a club £10 and they’ll spend £15, give them £20 and they spend £40. In the week Setanta Sports struggled to meet its payments to the Premier League, a player called Ronaldo is sold for a sum in line with the annual value of the broadcaster’s contract.
Ever since Setanta broke out of the pub market and sought to challenge the dominance of Sky in premium sports its business model has been difficult to meet. The footbalisation of society means the whole world seems to revolve around the ball game, to the extent that news from those remaining summer sports is squeezed out in favour of transfer speculation, and the season akin to that of flat racing.
The talk surrounding Setanta makes it seem like football is the only sport it carries, and on a single channel, both are far from correct. There’s IPL cricket, darts, boxing and golf, which gets its own channel. The full channel portfolio reads Setanta Sports 1, Setanta Sports 2, Setanta Sports News, Celtic TV, Rangers TV, Racing UK, Setanta Golf, LFC TV and Arsenal TV. Not all the channels are wholly owned, Setanta Sports News, which has failed to get a mention in all the coverage surrounding the company’s financial woes, is jointly owned with Virgin Media, itself keen to get out of the channels business.
Another channel with which Setanta has partnered is ESPN. Setanta sold the Disney-owned network its NASN channel, rebranded earlier this year as ESPN America and already gaining greater visibility as a result. It should come as no surprise that ESPN should be associated with Setanta as a possible buyer, but equally that it should not be immediately interested in making an offer. The number of channels makes Setanta a heavy commitment and arguably ESPN would be better off waiting for events to take their course. If Setanta were to fall into administration then the rights to the various administrations. Back on the market they would no doubt fetch less on the open market than was the case when originally offered.
ESPN was also in the frame when the rights for the 2010/11 to 2012/13 seasons were awarded in February. Setanta was only able to retain one of the two packages it holds under the current contract, even then probably saved only by European Commission guidance that insists no one player can hold more than five packages, and we all know who that is.
But note the dates here, the contract does not begin until 2010, and there is still one season left to run under the old contracts. Football fans are a fickle lot, and while a few might want to cancel their subscriptions in that short period between seasons, the evidence here suggests the problem is not so much the one package Setanta will have from next year but the two it has now.