A Deeper Look Into ESPN's EPL Adventure

Friday, February 06, 2009


Had a good talk with the folks at the "Leader" yesterday, and I wanted to write this post so you and I could better understand what the plan and outlook is for ESPN Soccer in the future. The other day, BSkyB snagged up four of the six "international" packages, which each consist of 23 games for a network to air. That left two packages, with a total of forty six games.

Well according to the English Premier League, BSkyB grabbed yet another set of games today and the final one went to Setanta, leaving ESPN empty handed. Via EPL Talk....

The Premier League has announced that out of the six TV packages available for bidding in the UK for the 2010-2013 seasons, Sky Sports won five of those packages with Setanta getting the sixth and final one. That means that ESPN’s attempt to bid on the rights ended in failure — in the UK, at least.

This is a huge win for Sky Sports who have increased their number of packages from four (for the 2007-2010 seasons) to five. Setanta Sports will be showing less games because they’ll be moving from two packages (2007-2010 seasons) to one. But the biggest loser is ESPN who despite a lot of the chatter about the Disney-owned company making an aggressive raid on rights to the UK EPL TV market ended up empty handed.
Now that is certainly a downer for ESPN, who is looking to beef up their European presence, but not all is lost. Like I mentioned above, those packages were just for "international rights", and do not include the United States packages. Fox Sports, Setanta and ESPN, should be the major players for that three-year deal, but there's yet another caveat.

Based on the BCS bidding, everyone knows ESPN has the money to outbid Fox Sports, but the economy and game times could make the "Leader" weary in making a huge bid. Due to the time difference from England to the U.S., the majority of EPL games are played early on the weekends. As you know, that's quite possibly the worst timeslot for Sports, and might not even be worth the purchase of the rights.

It's a tough spot to be in for ESPN, who obviously wants to get in the Soccer game, but does the reward ultimately outweigh the risk? We'll find out soon, as the bidding for U.S. right should get underway shortly.

ESPN Loses Premier League UK TV Rights Battle (EPL Talk)

Posted by Awful Announcing at 12:02 PM

10 Comments:

The big game each week for the Premier League is 11am on Sunday...it's prime TV time because usually, I'm just waiting for football to start and avoiding the countdown/pregame shows.

Ed James said...
Feb 6, 2009, 12:22:00 PM  

I think Saturday EPL games would be a great lead-in, ratings wise for College Football on Sunday.

The games are mainly played from 10AM to Noon ET, right before all the early football games start.

Certainly a mass of footy viewers would get better ratings than bass fishing or whatever ESPN programs saturday mornings these days.

odessasteps said...
Feb 6, 2009, 1:09:00 PM  

"I think Saturday EPL games would be a great lead-in, ratings wise for College Football on Sunday."

This makes no sense at all.

GMoney said...
Feb 6, 2009, 1:27:00 PM  

Spanish league soccer... the best in the world (IMO) plays most of its games at around 7-10pm spanish time... Making the games here from 1-4pm a great time slot for sports on the weekend.

I know the spanish league might not be the best for Americans, but if they want good quality soccer, with tradition in every team, and at a great time slot.. look to spain

Mingo said...
Feb 6, 2009, 1:54:00 PM  

I would love to see EPL on ESPN. Setanta is not a basic programming option and Fox Sports would screw it up. This would be a win for ESPN

Mr. Perrotti said...
Feb 6, 2009, 2:39:00 PM  

I can't tell you how relieved I am that ESPN missed out. Their coverage of the Champions League, La Liga, and Serie A is the worst I have ever seen for any sport by anyone. Their commentators ruin every game they cover (i.e. Tommy Smyth), their analysts are morons. I went through a period where I would watch with the sound turned down, but now I don't watch Champions League football at all.

I wish them every success in acquiring the United States packages, but it would be a disaster for the rest of us if ESPN ever buys the international rights to English football.

Matt said...
Feb 6, 2009, 3:06:00 PM  

News Corporation, which owns British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB), and in turn, Sky Sports, also owns Fox Soccer Channel. Now, I could be wrong, but any game that Sky has the rights for in England is automatically broadcast on its American sister network.

I think if ESPN were to want to get a piece of the EPL rights at this point, they would have to buy Setanta outright (which I know has been discussed before). That way, you could have an "ESPN International" channel featuring English football and rugby, as well as the other properties that Setanta owns (Six Nations, the Ashes, the Toyota AFL, etc).

Erik Sweet said...
Feb 6, 2009, 4:17:00 PM  

No, there is a difference between the U.K. rights and the U.S. rights. ESPN could still win the packages currently held by Setanta Sports USA and Fox Soccer Channel (from what I understand).

What I want to know is this: I have read reports from other sites suggesting that ESPN cannot change its ESPN Classic channel to a soccer- or EuroSport-specific channel because it is restricted in how much live game action it can show on that channel, due to a carriage agreement with the cable companies. Does anyone know if this is in fact the case?

Feb 6, 2009, 4:30:00 PM  

Judging by the picture used here, I wouldn't be shocked if ESPN still thought Reading was in the EPL. That's like a three year old banner.

Mike Georger said...
Feb 7, 2009, 5:15:00 PM  

I hope ESPN doesn't get the US rights unless they plan to start a new Soccer Channel. ESPN consistently treats soccer on US TV as a last thought. Basically any other program trumps it. They have rights to the UEFA Champions League and you're lucky if you see a single match on match day. Sure, they sometimes broadcast the matches back to back on ESPN Deportes, but I doubt the EPL would do well on that channel. If ESPN gets rights to the EPL in the US, you'll likely just see a "match of the week". Leave the EPL rights to soccer channels like GolTV and FSC. They are at least fully committed to the product.

aaron said...
Mar 17, 2009, 5:50:00 PM  

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