Disney mulls ESPN UK exit

Walt Disney is considering pulling sports network ESPN from the UK after only three years after losing high-profile broadcast deals to rivals.

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The company is concerned by the lack of growth the business has made in recent years as well as growing competition.

Disney’s chief financial officer, Jay Rasulo reportedly told analysts the UK division yesterday (5 February) of the broadcaster has “experienced losses” and was “exploring an exit.”

The Disney-owned brand, which is the biggest sports broadcaster in the US, launched its premium offering in the UK in 2009 after it acquired the rights to Premier League and FA Cup matches following the collapse of Setanta Sports. It was, however, outbid by the satellite broadcaster and BT last June for Premier League rights beyond the 2012/2013 season.

The loss was compounded just months later in November when BT acquired the rights to Serie A, Ligue 1 and MLS games. The business also recently lost mobile rights to show Premier League goals to News Corp.

ESPN has focused its marketing on brand partnerships in recent years most notably with AB-Inbev’s Budweiser brand to promote its FA Cup games. The tie-up has looked to leverage its exclusive content online in a bid to reach new fans.

A spokesman for ESPN, says: “We have been saying for some time that we are exploring a range of potential options for our business. We are not going to discuss specifics.”

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