BSkyB soccer rights under threat

BSkyB currently holds most of the TV rights to the English premiership, at least until the winter 2009-2010 season. But from 2010-11 until 2013 they are up for grabs, and at least one powerful new player is likely to be in the bidding round.

BSkyB does not hold all the rights. Irish pay-TV broadcaster Setanta also has access to some games, and between BSkyB and Setanta the two broadcasters paid £1.7bn for live rights. Sky paid £1.31bn for 92 games/year, while Setanta paid £392 for a lesser package of 46 games. It is widely reported that both players are more than likely to bid for the same bundles they currently enjoy.

But this time around it is likely that Disney-owned sports giant ESPN will also be at the auction. The English premiership controls TV rights (domestic and international) worth £2.7bn for the three-year period.

ESPN already has a foothold in Europe via its ESPN Classic channel, as well as the NASN channel. NASN is expected to be rebranded as ESPN America within the next few weeks.

Bloomberg TV has already reported that ESPN is interested in bidding for “one or two” of the six packages on offer. However, ESPN made the same noises about the German Bundesliga and yet pulled out at the last minute. One option that should not be ignored is that Setanta might sell out to ESPN.