TV, ESPN net Europa League rights
Joseph O'Halloran ©RapidTVNews | 18-10-2011
While not quite in the league of its legendary snatch of the day in the 1980s, ITV, in association with ESPN, has kicked Channel 5 into touch and has scored UK TV and media rights for the 2012–15 UEFA Europa League.
The competition may languish very much in the shade of the Champions League cash mountain but it has proved rather successful for English clubs in its history—with, as in The Champions League, Liverpool demonstrating pre-eminence among English teams—both on and off the pitch, drawing very respectable monetisable audiences for the UK’s free to air broadcasters.
In the new rights package, European football governing body UEFA has granted the UK’s leading commercial broadcaster ITV the right to broadcast the top two live matches each matchweek on ITV4 followed by a round-up of the matchnight's key action. In addition, ITV4 will show a full weekly highlights programme on Fridays each matchweek. Certain games in the later stages of the competition featuring local participation may likely be broadcast on ITV1
This would be a certainly if clubs currently struggling in the Champions League, in particular Manchester City and Arsenal, fail to qualify for the knock-out phase of the premier tournament and are relegated to the European League . Indeed such an occurrence happened to Liverpool in the 2009-2010 season much to the delight of then rights owner Channel 5, if not fans of the Reds, who saw a huge spike in viewing.
For its part, ESPN has secured the rights to all remaining UEFA Europa League matches and will screen at least one game per kick-off slot each matchweek as well as highlights on ESPN's premium UK television channel.
All rights have been awarded on a platform neutral basis, allowing ITV and ESPN to provide coverage across television, mobile and internet on itv.com and espn.co.uk respectively.
Commenting on the award of these rights, UEFA said: "UEFA is happy to renew its partnership with ITV and ESPN in the United Kingdom. These deals will further develop and promote the competition in the region by providing football fans throughout the UK with an extensive choice of coverage not only on television but also via online and mobile services."
Niall Sloane, ITV Controller of Sport said: “There is great demand from UK viewers to watch domestic teams performing on the European stage and I’m delighted that ITV is extending its long and successful relationship with UEFA to broadcast the top pick games from throughout the competition.”