Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What Will be on Setanta Sports?

Many industry observers were surprised earlier this year when Fox Soccer Channel not only held off ESPN's bid to swipe the US television rights to the English Premier League, but wrestled the Champions League away from the worldwide leader in sports. But ESPN may be ready to get back in the game as the financial difficulties at Setanta Sports could leave the broadcast rights to 46 EPL games up for grabs.

Setanta owes the EPL £30m this Friday, and if the broadcaster can't meet the deadline, its package of games will go back on the market. Setanta have been in discussions with potential buyers and while ESPN has denied interest in a full acquisition, they'd undoubtedly pounce at a package of games they were shut out of in the last round of bidding.

What a change in rights holders would mean to American audiences remains to be seen. Setanta is available on DirecTV, Dish Network and digital cable packages in select markets. Despite ESPN's massive domestic presence, they could choose to show their EPL package only to international audiences as they've done with other soccer properties. Don't expect ESPN to start airing Premier League matches in lieu of college football or college basketball.

Aside from the business implications, the world also awaits the fate of "the Special One" and his crew from Special1TV. The boldest prediction on Setanta's future can be found on Twitter, where the Mourinho-look alike told a fellow tweeter "Shut up...Setanta is for the staying."

Update: I received a message via Twitter Wednesday morning from "Setanta US" stating "Setanta US is going on with business as usual." I'm still hoping the Special One will tell me to shut up.

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