ESPN to build brand presence in UK after football rights buy

Purchase of Setanta’s UK TV rights will help broadcaster raise its profile

Sports broadcaster ESPN is hoping to raise its profile in the UK following its purchase of the TV rights to show 46 Premier League games for the 2009-2010 season.

The Walt Disney-owned broadcaster has also won the rights to air 23 games per season from 2010 to 2013.

ESPN paid an estimated £250m for the rights after Setanta failed to make a £10m payment by last Friday’s (June 19) deadline. Setanta has now gone into administration.

ESPN is already a big player in the US, but has a much smaller presence in Europe.

Antony Marcou, managing director of sports marketing agency SportsRevolution, says because ESPN already has rights to show the Premier League in the Asia-Pacific region, the deal will work to its advantage.

He adds that now it can broadcast in the “home of the Premier League” it could provide major competition for BSkyB the next time the full broadcast rights are available.

ESPN is in talks with Sky to launch a channel on the latter’s satellite platform to air the games next season. It is also expected to broker similar deals with Virgin Media and BT Vision.

PHD broadcast director Adam Turner says ESPN’s rights win should not pose a threat to Sky, but rather provide “a great springboard for the broadcaster [ESPN], which is well known in North America, but not particularly here. It’s definitely a coup for ESPN”.

Universal McCann managing partner of investment Richard Oliver agrees that ESPN does not pose a challenge to Sky. “If anything it’s a move backwards in terms of competition in the market. I don’t see ESPN as using this as a springboard to overrun Sky given the distribution deal it has reached.”

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