International sports giant ESPN has stepped in to buy the TV rights for the Barclays English Premier League for the next three years in Ireland.
The league dissolved its relationship with financially-troubled Setanta after the Irish company failed to meet a final deadline for a major payment due in June. Setanta was also stripped of its Scottish Premier League contract.
Setanta broadcasts cricket, motorsports, golf, rugby, ultimate fighting and boxing, but none draw as many viewers and followers than football, especially the EPL, which is arguably the best, most-competitive football league in the world.
“Premier League football is one of the world’s most sought-after sports properties, and we are very excited to be expanding our business in the UK with England’s top football product,” said ESPN's Russell Wolff.
Broadcasters were invited to bid for the final package of match-broadcast rights formerly held by Setanta – for live Saturday 3 p.m. kickoffs to be shown in Ireland next season. ESPN will launch a new channel in the U.K. for its Premier League rights. It will be an option on Sky’s platform, and Sky Sports’ in-house production team will act as producers for the Premier League matches for ESPN.
The other network that has rights in the United States is Fox Soccer Channel. It is still unknown if ESPN will show these games on their networks in the states, through a service like ESPN360, or make it a subscription service like Setanta.
“The Premier League is extremely pleased that ESPN has invested in our broadcast rights for the Republic of Ireland. “They have a formidable worldwide reputation and we have great confidence in their ability to provide football fans with first-rate coverage and programming,” said Premier League CEO Richard Scudamore.