Sky has paid a reputed £1 billion to keep the four prime live Premier League packages until 2013. The remaining two packages will now go to a second bidding round with Setanta Sports and ESPN going head to head.
Sky Sports has secured 92 of the available 138 live games, replicating the coverage achieved for the 2007-10 seasons. Under European Union rules Sky can bid for up to five packages and the satcaster has today confirmed its intention to go forward into the second round.
The two remaining packages are currently held by Setanta, which will be desperate to retain its toehold on the English game. The waters are muddied by ESPN, which has slowly built up its presence in the European market, this week rebranding NASN as ESPN America. The Disney-owned sports channel also narrowly missed out in a bid for rights to the German Bundesliga.
One possibility is some sort of alliance between ESPN and Setanta, whose shareholders include Balterton Capital and Goldman Sachs. The loss of English Premier League would be cushioned by the Dublin-based broadcaster’s coverage of England Internationals, The FA Cup and the Scottish Premier League. However, despite sweetheart deals that have placed the supposedly premium channel in Virgin Media’s big basic package, audiences for its coverage are still significantly lower than those for its more established rival.