Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Scottish Premier League ditches Setanta

Troubled sports broadcaster Setanta was dealt a fresh blow today after the Scottish Premier League ditched the firm and said it was looking for another television partner.

Setanta has missed a £3 million payment to the league and failed to meet extended deadlines for the money - prompting the SPL to look elsewhere for the 2009/10 season.

The move came three days after Setanta lost a key deal to broadcast 46 English Premier League games when it failed to meet a deadline for a £10 million payment to the league.

"We are now actively engaging in the process of selling our domestic broadcasting rights for next season and beyond," SPL chairman Lex Gold said.

The matches in England are now up for tender by the Premier League, which has given broadcasters until today to make their bids.

Mr Gold said: "We set three deadlines and we wanted to work with Setanta who have been a great partner of ours.

"They have spent £60 million in supporting Scottish football and our board were determined to give them every possible chance to work through the problems that they had.

"That process has been lengthy and intensive but the deadline today was the final deadline."

Setanta still holds the rights to other major sporting fixtures including the FA Cup, some England matches, US PGA golf and from 2010, Guinness Premiership rugby.

The firm's woes could cause a headache for other sporting associations as a fall into administration might trigger a fire sale of its other broadcasting deals.

It is also feared the loss of the Premier League games will cause Setanta subscribers to migrate to other providers.

BSkyB and US-broadcaster ESPN are expected to buy rights to 23 English league games each under the current auction process, although they may face competition from digital pay TV service TopUp TV.

The Irish broadcaster has about 1.2 million subscribers, but this is below the 1.9 million it needs to break even and it is currently thought to be running at a loss of nearly £100 million a year.

It was left unable to pay the Premier League following the collapse of a potential rescue deal with US tycoon Len Blavatnik's Access Industries.

The deal, which was thought to be worth £20 million, would have seen Access Industries buy a 51% stake in the broadcaster, but it failed to go ahead after "a number of issues" were not resolved in time.

Deloitte has been lined up to act as administrator if the firm fails.

Setanta, which employs about 430 people as well as 700 call centre contract workers, temporarily suspended new subscriptions earlier this month, prompting fears over the future of the business.

Despite the fact its Premier League matches are expected to be snapped up today, it is thought the bids could fall below what Setanta was paying.

BSkyB is expected to buy Setanta's package of Monday night Premier League games, as it has already won the rights to broadcast these from 2010/2011.

However, EU legislation means it cannot own all the rights, making it likely that ESPN will pick up the Saturday teatime games.

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