Posted on 22 June 2009.
Broadcast groups will put the final touches to their bids to acquire the live media rights to 46 football matches forfeited last week by crisis-stricken Irish firm after it failed to meet a payment deadline.
With less than eight weeks to go to the start of the next season, bids must be lodged with the Premier League tomorrow. Given the time pressure, the prospects of attracting widespread interest from new entrants to football broadcasting are thought to be remote.
Industry insiders said this may leave Sky to scoop up a package of 26 Monday evening games at a bargain price, taking its total for next season to the maximum permitted level under EU rules, which is five of the six batches of games.
Sky has secured the rights to air Monday evening games for the 2010-11 season with a three-year deal that will again see it control a maximum of five packages.
Meanwhile the Disney-owned specialist sports broadcaster ESPN, which owns a UK digital channel, is the front runner to pick up the final batch of 26 Saturday teatime games for the upcoming season.
Pay-to-watch service Top Up TV has been mentioned as another potential bidder. It is backed by Russian-American industrialist Len Blavatnik, whose Access Industries walked away from rescue talks with Setanta on Friday.
A rescue deal, believed to have involved a £20m cash injection, would have seen Access Industries buy a 51% stake in the broadcaster. But it failed to go ahead, leaving Setanta unable to meet a £10m Premier League payment deadline on Friday. Access Industries said it was disappointed not “to have been able to make this deal happen”, adding it would “continue to explore opportunities in this area”.
Last night it was reported that BT Vision had stopped selling Setanta Sport to new customers while it reviews the situation.
Restructuring partners from Deloitte are understood to have been lined up to act as administrators should the forfeiture of Premier League rights prove to be a fatal blow for Setanta. The broadcaster, which also controls rights to FA Cup matches, England games and Scottish Premier League fixtures, won few friends among sports fans since it was established in 1990. Many of them were angered by the broadcasters’ subscriber rates.
The company has signed up about 1.2 million subscribers – and it needs 1.9 million to break even. It is believed to be operating at an annual loss of almost £100m. New subscriptions were suspended this month and the business has also missed a £3m payment to the Scottish Premier League. Setanta shareholders include Doughty Hanson, Balderton Capital and Goldman Sachs.
Source: Guardian UK