Monday, June 22, 2009

Setanta Sports' future is growing bleaker by the day it would appear and today saw some more final nails being hammered into their coffin.

BT Vision, one of the UK's top cable TV providers, announced that they were stopping selling the station to new subscribers, although existing ones will still be able to watch Setanta's output.

This in itself is a huge blow to Setanta as they rely heavily on these outlets and it will be interesting to see which other providers now follow suit.

In further, more damaging, blows though, the Premier League rights to the 46 games which Setanta had previously held for next season have now been sold to ESPN and the SPL today announced that failure to receive payments due has meant that their television rights had now reverted back to them to re-sell.

It is still unclear how much impact, if any, these losses of rights will affect the company's stations outside the UK (in places like North America and Canada) as they seem to be governed by different agreements, with much of their output bought in from other rights holders.

Setanta still look to be putting together a rescue package but without English and Scottish Premier league action, they currently only have FA Cup, International and Blue Square Premier rights to tempt people to keep paying their monthly subscriptions.

Sadly, I don't know how many people this will keep and as the days go by it's looking increasingly unlikely that the station can survive.

I personally find this a shame, as Setanta were providing some good coverage in the UK and offered access to matches for people without satellite and cable access through the freeview platform. They had made a strong impact on sports fans in the UK and gave coverage across a wide variety of sports, providing fans of North American sports in particular a chance to get previously unparallelled coverage.

If Setanta fail, then already replacements will be lined up. ESPN are seemingly looking at launching a new channel to air their newly acquired football and this, of course, will be a subscription one.

Whether the UK market can financially support too many subscription services is becoming more and more debatable and it's the poorer sports fans in particular that will be the ones missing out.

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