ESPN is reportedly in discussions with France Telecom to purchase the Orange Sport network. Details of the transaction, reported by Le Point, have yet to be finalized, but there are suggestions that a deal may be completed as early as November 1. This would leave time for a bid in the next round of rights to the French football league.
However, the publication suggests that ESPN does not want to compete directly against Canal+ in the premium sports market, a move that may pose more of a challenge to Eurosport in pay-basic.
In the UK, ESPN entered the premium sports market in 2009, following the collapse of Setanta Sports. Although positioned as premium on the Sky satellite platform, it is also available free-of-charge to subscribers of Virgin Media’s big basic package.
Following the announcement by France Telecom CEO Stéphane Richard that Orange would in future seek “content partnerships”, a partnership with Canal+ for the Orange Cinema Series is already close to fruition. It is also believed that Orange would no longer bid for rights to the French Ligue 1, leaving governing body LFP considering taking over Orange Sport itself.