ESPN is reportedly looking to sell on its rights packages as BT steps into the UK sports game, writes Julian Clover
It should be taken as a given that the Premier League has been a success story for broadcasters and arguably viewers. But each new contract appears to bring with it some colleateral damage to at least some of the broadcasters involved.
Setanta Sports fell off its perch in the UK even before it had the burden of losing its rights in a bidding war.
The precise effect of the BT acquisition of two packages from the start of the 2013/14 season is beginning to be felt. ESPN, which had quickly launched a new UK-centric channel when it picked up on Setanta’s rights, is now reportedly looking to sell on the rights it had acquired to other sports once it can no longer count the Premier League as a part of its portfolio.
There has been no official comment, but one might assume that the Disney-based channel is considering a retraction to its Classic Sport and ESPN America brands. The latter a popular premium channel among fans of US sports.
BT Vision is currently going through the long road to launch; it has the BBC presenter Jake Humphrey to front its coverage – the main BBC Sport anchor Gary Lineker isn’t going anywhere – so Humphrey clearly made the same decision that Ray Stubbs took in going to ESPN a few years before.
What is intriguing to me is where the new contracts will leave the smaller sports that populate the schedule. The French Open tennis took the decision to commercialise its offer more effectively and the new tender took the prestigious event from the BBC – where it had been hidden under the Red Button – to ITV4. All the time Eurosport providing a constant source of coverage.
So the intrigue is maybe on what other sports will sit with BT Vision.
Sky Sports, which surely remains the first port of call for the football fan, has happily run Sky Sports F1 on one race a week. Magazine features and race re-runs filling in the time. However, Sky Sports F1 is part of a far-wider portfolio.
Viewers will have to consult the Radio Times.