11.00 Update: The UK arm of Setanta Sports has gone into administration after weeks of uncertainty, immediately placing 200 of the pay-TV broadcaster’s 420 employees out of work.
Of the Setanta-operated channels, Setanta Sports 1 (UK), Setanta Sports 1 (for pubs) Setanta Sports 2, Setanta Golf, Setanta Sports News, Rangers TV and Celtic TV all went off the air at 18.00 on Tuesday. Setanta Ireland, Setanta Sports 1 (Ireland), Racing UK, Liverpool TV and Arsenal TV remain broadcasting.
Neville Kahn, Lee Manning and Nick Edwards of Deloitte have been appointed as joint administrators to Setanta Sport Limited and Setanta Transmissions (UK) Limited. David Carson, of Deloitte in Ireland, has been appointed receiver to Setanta Sport Holdings Limited, Setanta Media Holdings Limited, Setanta Media Limited and Setanta Sport (PPV) Limited.
The appointments do not cover Setanta International and Setanta Ireland, and the administrators hope that it may still be possible to find a buyer for these businesses.
“After a huge effort by the Setanta board, management team and its backers, it has not been possible to save the GB business, which will be wound down in due course,” said Kahn. “Regrettably, approximately 200 employees will be made redundant in respect of the GB business.”
He added that the broadcaster has ceased to accept new subscriptions and that no direct debit payments would be taken on existing contracts.
Sir Robin Miller: “Sad day”
In a statement, Setanta said that existing shareholders were prepared to invest further in the business, providing agreement could be reached with rights holders to reduce expenditure. “Although progress was made, the improvements achieved were insufficient to ensure that the business could become profit-making.”
Sir Robin Miller, Setanta’s recently appointed chairman, added: “This is a sad day for all concerned. Since its inspired inception a number of years ago, Setanta and its financial backers, have invested hundreds of millions of pounds buying UK and international sports rights. With the hard work and dedication of its staff, a pay-TV broadcaster was created which entertained people in three million homes with top-class sport.
“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.”
Last weekend an offer from the Russian-born entrepreneur Leonard Blavatnik to buy 51% of the channel collapsed after the broadcaster failed to reach an agreement with the Top Up TV owner.
On Monday (June 22), the Premier League announced that it had resold Setanta’s live football rights to ESPN, while the Scottish Premier League is understood to be in talks with Sky Sports over a return to the channel.
Setanta has 1.2 million subscribers, but with sweetheart deals through platforms including Virgin Media, it could be viewed in three million homes.
Separate versions of the main Setanta Sports channel and Setanta Sports 1 were broadcast in the Irish Republic. The feed included a 15.00 GMT Saturday kick-off from the Premier League, Irish Schools Athletics, and Hurling.
English and Scottish Premier League football was also an important part of the schedule in the US and Canada, a business that the administrators are hoping can be saved.
Racing UK continues
Racing UK, which was broadcast has part of the Setanta package, said its pricepoint would revert to its 2004 launch price of £20 per month, including a £9.99 monthly subscription to Racing UK’s on-line services, though effectively an increase on the £14.99 paid for the suite of Setanta channels. The 55,000-subscriber channel admitted that it might lose money on subscriptions already paid to Setanta, but said it would make good the subscription, and ensure its customers did not have their viewing interrupted. However, Racing UK may be forced to switch from its 432 position in the Sky EPG, but says it has alternative arrangements in place.
Setanta has often been described as an ‘Irish Sports Channel’ and its beginnings as a relay of public broadcaster RTE’s sports coverage to Irish pubs is regularly cited. The acquisition of Premier League rights in 2006, as the channel took advantage of European Commission rules to open up Premier League rights, was both a blessing and a curse.
While breaking Sky’s grip on Premier League coverage it felt obliged to open a suite of channels, while finding itself forced to bid higher for other sports that included rugby, golf, boxing and cricket.