13.00 Update: After months of uncertainty as to its interest in Premier League coverage, ESPN has finally launched its challenge on the live UK sports market. The Disney-owned sports network has secured the 46 live matches previously held by Setanta Sports for the 2009/10 season, along with 23 matches a season between 2010 and May 2013.
The Premier League has awarded ESPN the two packages for the 2009/2010 season it reclaimed last Friday after Setanta failed to pay a £30 million (€35.5 million) installment that was due.
Reports suggest ESPN has paid £90 million to screen next season’s games, some £40 million less than Setanta had been contracted to pay, but came close to matching the £159 million offered by Setanta for the 2010 – 2013 seasons.
Although no details of the financial terms have been released, Setanta is believed to have offered £150 million for its 23 matches in February, as the Premier League’s total revenues from UK pay-TV rights reached a record £1,782 million for all six packages.
ESPN has also picked up the single package for the 2010/11 – 2012/13 seasons, BSkyB having previously secured the maximum five packages a single broadcaster is allowed to hold under European law.
“We are clearly delighted that our bid for exclusive media rights to the Barclays Premier League matches in the UK has been successful,” said Lynne Frank, ESPN MD in Europe, Middle East and Africa. “This is a huge step for our business, and we look forward to working with the Premier League, football clubs and distributors to bring UK sports fans all the excitement they expect in Premier League football.”
ESPN says it intends to make the Premier League coverage “widely available across multiple pay-TV platforms”. Agreement has already been secured with Sky to retail the coverage to residential and commercial customers. Broadband TV News understands talks are also in progress with Virgin Media, Top Up TV and BT Vision.
ESPN effectively has three options available to it on how to present its coverage; include the Premier League as part of the premium ESPN America, to launch a new channel, or a compromise between the two. Including the Premier League on the freeto-air, and archive channel, ESPN Classic would appear to be a non-starter.
Separately, the Scottish Premier League has confirmed it has also withdrawn its live rights from Setanta.
It is believed to be in talks with BSkyB to recommence coverage of top flight Scottish football.