Setanta Setback: BSkyB Snags Majority of Premier League Rights
By Kevin Hilton
SVG European Editor
BSkyB has strengthened its hold on television coverage of top-flight English football after the Premier League awarded the broadcaster all but one of the six UK live audio-visual–rights packages for the seasons from 2010 to 2013. This is a setback for Setanta Sports, which has been challenging Sky’s dominance of live television football in recent years but secured only one package in this round of bidding.
The 138 matches in these coming seasons were arranged in six bundles of 23 games on what the Premier League described as a “technology-neutral basis.” Sky has been broadcasting coverage of the top English division in HD since 2006, and, although Setanta is using HD trucks supplied by OB company Arena Television, it has yet to move to hi-def transmission.
Sky paid more than £1 billion for the first tranche of four packages, which gave it 92 live matches. The fifth bundle took the satellite broadcaster’s spending to £1.63 billion and gave it 115 matches. Setanta currently has two bundles, for which it paid £392 million but, in this round of bidding, secured a solitary package of 23 games, paying £159 million. The Premier League raised £1.78 billion from this auction, a 5% rise on its take from the previous round.
Setanta began broadcasting live Premier League coverage in 2007 and had increased its subscriptions as an alternative to Sky. Setanta founder and joint Chief Executive Michael O’Rourke talked up the continuing relationship with the Premier League, but losing matches to Sky has to be seen as a blow to the broadcaster’s ambitions to be a major player in the UK pay-TV market.
Richard Scudamore, the chief executive of the Premier League, says, “The live UK rights are the largest contribution to the revenues we distribute centrally to the clubs, and this deal gives them the stability to plan and invest in the most important aspect of our business: the football. Everything flows from that.”