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Setanta's UK business has filed for bankrupcy. Photo by: Owen Humphreys/PA

Irish-run broadcaster Setanta's UK division files for bankruptcy

\"Irish

Setanta's UK business has filed for bankrupcy. Photo by: Owen Humphreys/PA

Irish-run broadcaster Setanta's UK division filed for bankruptcy protection Tuesday, while ESPN have purchased the rights to broadcast English Premier League in the UK for the 2009/2010 season.

Setanta released a statement Tuesday saying that the UK division of the company was going into administration, but the Irish and international branches would continue to function as normal.

"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 Deloitte’s Neville Khan, whose company is handing the administration process.

"This is a sad day for all concerned,’ said Setanta chairman Robin Miller.”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 (the company's) survival."

Around 200 jobs are expected to be lost as a result of the announcement.

Setanta lost the rights to show both the English Premier League (EPL) and Scottish Premier League (SPL) games in the UK market when they failed to make payments of £10 million ($16.5 million) and £3 million ($5 million) to each respective league.

At one point it looked like the company might be rescued by a £20 million ($33 million) investment from American businessman Leonard Blavatnik, but the billionaire investor pulled out of the deal to purchase a 51 percent share of the company when negotiations broke down.

The following day, the EPL announced that time was up for Setanta and rights to the 46-game package were up for tender. Things got worse when the SPL told Setanta that failure to hold up their financial obligations meant that it had also lost that contract.

Given that 400,000 of the channel’s 1.2 million subscribers came from Scotland, this was another huge blow to the ailing company.

Developments over the past few days do not affect Setanta customers in the United States.  The company posted the following message on its U.S. Web site today:

"As has been widely reported in various media channels, Setanta Sports has had its agreement to broadcast 46 Barclays Premier League matches in the UK terminated.

"This development does not affect our channels and other services in the U.S.

"Setanta Sports in the U.S. is a separate operation that has separate agreement to show the Barclay’s Premier League. Our channels and other services in the US continue to broadcast and our subscribers can still enjoy our programming including the Lions Tour of South Africa and the UEFA U21 European Championship.

"New customers are welcome to subscribe to watch some of the world’s best soccer and rugby either by contacting our cable and satellite partners or online at www.setanta.com.

"We thank you for your continued interest in Setanta Sports and look forward to bringing you a wealth of sport over the coming months and years."

ESPN took full advantage of Setanta’s precarious financial situation by purchasing the rights to broadcast 46 English Premier League games in the UK for the 2009-2010 season.

"We are clearly delighted that our bid for exclusive media rights to the Barclays Premier League matches in the UK has been successful," said ESPN Managing Director in Europe, Middle East and Africa Lynne Frank.

ESPN also was awarded the 23 match package that Setanta had for the three seasons after next. Richard Scudamore, Premier league Chief Executive, was happy to strike a partnership with the American company, which is owned by The Walt Disney Corporation.

 "The Premier League is extremely pleased to have added ESPN as a UK rights holder. They have a formidable worldwide reputation and experience in sports and I am sure we will enjoy a long and fruitful relationship with them."

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