Access Industries submits rescue plan to Setanta

Investment group Access Industries has submitted a plan to buy a majority stake in struggling Irish sports broadcaster Setanta, it said today. “Access believes that this proposal would secure the future of the broadcaster for customers, football and employees,” the group said in a statement, saying the stake would refinance the company. The proposal is subject to a “number of pre-conditions”, Access said, but did not define them.

Setanta has been looking for a 50 million pound ($82.52 million) investment as it needs to pay looming sports rights payments. The broadcaster’s board has been engaged in emergency refinancing talks all week and for a few days it suspended signing up new subscribers, but is now once again accepting new subscriptions. It hit trouble after signing sports rights but failing to get the number of subscribers it needed to cover the cost.

The viability of its long-term business model was also thrown into doubt in February this year when it failed to secure its desired number of English Premier League live broadcast packages, a key draw for customers. Setanta currently holds the rights to show two English Premier League packages, or 46 live matches a season, but it lost out in the auction for the next three-year deal to BSkyB and will only show 23 games per season from August 2010 against BSkyB’s 115.