Much to the frustration of Disney-owned ESPN (NYSE: DIS), BSkyB (NYSE: BSY) will continue its dominance of live top flight football TV coverage for a further three years. The News Corp-backed satellite service has secured its fifth English Premier League rights package out of a possible six, with Irish broadcaster Setanta taking the sixth. The six packages have a total value of £1.78 billion and last from the 2010/11 season to 2012/13. Sky will show 115 games a year while Setanta gets just 23 — half the live rights it enjoys currently, placing it in a precarious position. A European Commission ruling prevents Sky from owning all the rights, though the company will no doubt be in the running to retain its jointly held new media rights when those discussions begin between broadcasters and the league.
A spokesman for ESPN tells us: “We can confirm that we did bid for Premier League rights and we are therefore disappointed in the outcome. But we were pleased to be at the table and we would like to congratulate Sky and Setanta.” That leaves the company to develop audiences for its existing UK-facing properties such as TV channels ESPN Classic and ESPN America and sites including Cricinfo.com and ESPNscrum.com. Asked whether ESPN would be in the running for the complicated new media, VOD rights and international rights auctions, the spokesman says the company “is interested in all rights if they fit with the business”.