Subscribers face confusion at Setanta

Chris Forrester

Setanta, now in pre-bankruptcy administration, closed its channels in the UK during the afternoon of June 23, saying "it had cased trading in Great Britain". . Setanta had some 1.2m DTH subscribers, each up to date with their fees. Setanta was still accepting subscriber fees as recently as last week, and it is likely that subscriber funds (by and large limited to 1 month's payments in advance, although some annual pre-payments had been made) will now be added to the list of the company's numerous creditors. Refunds are not likely.

Virgin Media has already said that it will refund its 1.8m Setanta wholesale subscribers who have now lost their signals.

Setanta will continue transmitting to its Irish subscribers, and its international relationships in the US are also unaffected - at least for the moment, says the company's administrators Deloitte. One report suggests that Liberty Media, via its NTL-Chorus cable investment in Ireland, might be a potential investor/acquirer of Setanta's remaining assets.

Meanwhile, Setanta's British TV assets are now up for grabs. While ESPN has secured a package of English premiership soccer games for the upcoming season (and the 3 years following) there's a wide raft of other sporting fixtures that will need to be re-secured by Setanta's old rivals such as BSkyB - and new rivals like ESPN. ESPN has already promised soccer fans a ‘channel'.

Sky is just one of the players likely to be seeking lower-cost TV rights. Sky is, however, not alone. ESPN might now be looking for other TV rights to add to its English premiership portfolio. Also up for grabs is the Scottish Premier League, with Sky the warm favourite to secure the rights for a fraction of the sum paid by Setanta.

Other events on the block include the FA Cup, US PGA Golf and from next year Guinness top-flight rugby.