Page last updated at 21:16 GMT, Friday, 19 June 2009 22:16 UK

Setanta loses Premier TV rights

Hull City v Man Utd
Setanta will lose its two packages of games for 2009/10 season

Troubled pay-TV sports broadcaster Setanta has failed to pay the latest chunk of the £30m it owes the English Premier League - losing the rights.

A potential rescue deal, led by a US investor who had proposed buying 51% of Setanta, had fallen through.

The league will now put the rights to the 46 live matches for the 2009/2010 season out to auction, after Setanta missed Friday's payment deadline.

Offers to buy the rights need to be made by Monday.

The Board of Setanta said it would "consider its options over the weekend".

"In the meantime, Setanta's sports channels continue on air," it added.

'Regret'

The Premier League said it had been working with Setanta "for some time to help them continue as the broadcaster" .

SETANTA'S SPORTS DEALS
English Premier League
Scottish Premier League
Blue Square Premier
IPL cricket
US PGA Tour golf
Guinness Premiership rugby union (from 2010)
Magners rugby
Boxing

The Premier League, in agreement with Setanta, stipulated that certain contractual requirements had to be met on or before Friday "to allow the preparations for the 2009/10 season to continue unaffected".

The league added: "It is with considerable regret that we announce that Setanta has been unable to meet their obligations. As such the existing licence agreement between us has been terminated with immediate effect."

The Premier League will now go ahead and auction the 46 UK live matches for the 2009/10 season.

'Issues'

Late last week, Access Industries, controlled by the US investor Len Blavatnik, tabled a £20m bid for a 51% share in Setanta.

It had been hoped Access could lead a consortium of investors to provide fresh funding for Setanta.

US investor Len Blavatnik
Mr Blavatnik had been studying Setanta's books

However Access has now said it was unable to proceed with a deal with Setanta.

There had been concerns over how much tax Access could be liable for if it acquired Setanta.

"Access believed that this proposal could potentially have secured the future of the broadcaster for its customers, employees and for football, provided certain conditions required to put the business on a long-term viable footing were met," it said.

"Regrettably, despite intensive efforts on all sides over the past few days, and despite significant progress in a number of areas, there remain a number of issues which we have been unable to resolve within the time available.

"We are disappointed not to have been able to make this deal happen. Access remains committed to sports programming and will continue to explore opportunities in this area."

One of those which may be interested in acquiring Setanta's 46 games is Disney-owned sports channel ESPN.

'Bad news'

ESPN would not comment directly on the new situation but said it continued "to be interested in rights where they are available and where they make business sense".

Meanwhile James Pickles, editor of industry newsletter TV Sports Markets, said that until Thursday there were expectations that Setanta would pull though.

"It's bad news for everyone - no one is a winner," he said, adding: "It's a disaster for rights holders."

He said it was bad news for Sky because having a competitor such as Setanta was beneficial to it from an EU regulatory perspective, which prevents one broadcaster owning all Premier League rights.

However Sky would be legally free to bid for one of Setanta's two packages of 23 games.

There is uncertainty over what will happen to the 23-game deal that Setanta has already won for the three seasons starting in 2010-11.

But analysts expect that if those rights were up for offer again, a tender process would be resolved quickly.

FA chief executive Ian Watmore said: "We are understandably very disappointed with the news that Setanta and the FAPL were unable to reach agreement".

"We have worked well with Setanta's management and potential new investors in the last week, and had reached a solution in principle that would have allowed them to meet their contractual requirements with the FA and strengthen our strategic partnership."

"We now await developments, but remain confident of the attractiveness of our broadcast rights going forward."

Subscriber targets

Last week Setanta reopened its website to new subscribers - having closed it for several days.

Setanta is running at an estimated loss of £100m a year, after missing subscriber targets.

The broadcaster has 1.2 million subscribers, 700,000 short of the 1.9million that industry experts believe they need to break even.

Attention will now shift onto Setanta's other contracts - such as those with the FA for England and FA Cup matches, the Scottish Premier League (SPL), and the Blue Square Premier, the top division of English non-league football.

It recently missed a £3m payment due to the SPL - part of a four-year deal worth £54m over four years from 2006 to 2010.

Following Friday's news, Lex Gold, executive chairman of the SPL said: "We are still locked in discussions with Setanta."

"Understandably, these discussions are complex and must remain confidential at this stage. We expect these to conclude early next week."

Setanta also owns rights to the PGA golf tour, as well as cricket and rugby union deals.


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SEE ALSO
Setanta payment deadline looming
19 Jun 09 |  Business
Premier League's Setanta deadline
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Last-ditch effort to save Setanta
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Foulkes warns of SPL bankruptcies
10 Jun 09 |  Scottish Premier
ESPN: 'No current Setanta plans'
11 Jun 09 |  Business
Setanta halts new subscriptions
10 Jun 09 |  Business

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