Monday, June 8, 2009

Setanta on its last legs?

We have alluded to it a couple of times over the last fortnight or so, but with every new day, Setanta looks two days closer to shutting up shop. The Guardian has written up a couple of articles on the mess recently. As an added bonus, it's a legitimate newspaper, so we can almost believe what they write is true. Inside, we'll look at the problems the Irish broadcaster is facing.

The current crisis centers around Setanta failing to pay its last installment to the SPL for the 08/09 season. Last Monday, the Irish channel was due to pay out £3m to the Scottish top flight, but failed to do so. In fact, it seems, they didn't even mention that the money was not forthcoming. Now, a week later, the board of Setanta is meeting, trying to figure out how to come up with capital for that payment as well as another 40 million pounds which are due to the EPL. Quite frankly, they do not have it.

One part of the problem seems to be overpayment for middling packages. Last year, Setanta paid £125m pounds for SPL rights through 2014, a vast jump over what they were paying before. Additionally, though splitting the cost with ITV, Setanta bid over £400m for England games and the FA Cup. These are all part of a history of high bids from Setanta, which included a £70M bid for Football League rights after another channel dropped the contract.

Curiously, it seems that these high bids for secondary competitions hampered Setanta when it came to bidding on three-year rights on the EPL last year. EPL rights come in six 23 game packages, of which, in the UK, Sky held four and Setanta held two. In the upcoming package (2010-13), Setanta had to lower their bids, while Sky raised theirs. In the end, only an EU law regarding monopolies allowed Setanta to hold onto a single 23 game package. As it stands, it looks unlikely that the Irish broadcaster will even be around when the 2010-11 season starts.

Quoted figures have Setanta losing up to £100m a year. For years, they have floated on the back of private investment, but that seems to have dried up. Today's meeting, in fact, was supposedly to find ways to drum up cash, since banks have pretty much closed their doors to the channel.

If only they had followed this sage advice from the Americas

The bottom line is that the packages that Setanta currently hold the rights for are likely to be back on the market soon, and likely at a discount rate. Unless, that is, the rumors of ESPN swooping in and buying the channel cheaply are true. There is a delicate balance there for the North American fan. ESPN would likely be attempting to gain a toehold in the UK market, and not doing this for an American audience. Still, if tWWL does take over Setanta, then they would have the North American rights as well, and they wouldn't just let those go unused, would they?

Who knows? And it's a speculative step too far anyway. Setanta, at this time, is still alive. But just know that the vultures are well aware of its location and are just waiting for it to stop moving.


Whizalen said...

This all comes right as I'm about to switch to satellite just so I can watch more footie.

The problem with ESPN in the US, in my mind, is that they have no medium to broadcast football in the fall because of their contracts with college football. ESPN and ESPN2 are locked up on Saturdays; Sundays would be open since they only show bowling as far as I can ascertain. They can show the Monday night game and/or use ESPN Classic for Saturday games (or ESPNNEWS which is beyond ridiculous given the amount of in-game break-ins they do; not to mention the continuous scrolling at the bottom of the screen on ESPN2).

The question in my mind is: would ESPN even want to show games in the US? That is scarier for me because they could buy these packages just for a foothold into the UK and show just one game (if any) in the US. Like their crap-tastic MLS coverage. Then where are we without FSC getting the Setanta games?

Since I've been paying a lot of attention to this because of my impending satellite move, I have a question I haven't seen addressed. If Mickey swoops in and buys-out they keep sentanta? I mean, does Setanta remain, particularly on US satellite packages? Does it get folded into ESPN, but remain a satellite package? I'm not opposed to Disney buying out Setanta...I just want my damn footie (and by damn footie, of course, I mean Arsenal footie).

WhiteSpeedReceiver said...

So, does anyone have an idea how this will affect the SPL?

Bigus Dickus said...

College football games are usually in the afternoon no? EPL 7am and 10 am games would be attractive and ESPN Classic could house the rest. I see it happening. I'd save a fortune, drop Direct tv and go back to cable, only have DTV for Setanta. It IS much better but also 50 bucks more a month!

Bigus Dickus said...

BBC Scotland will show scotland games like they used to. Who else wants to see em?

ü75 said...

WSR-what I have seen is that SPL rights will likely be re-auctioned, with the league losing a lot on the deal. IIRC, when the rights came up the last time, Aberdeen, Rangers and Celtic urged the others to go with Sky, which bid about the same. But the Sky (if it was them) bid would pay out less up front, so the other 9 teams went with Setanta.

Whiz-as someone who has wanted Setanta for a while, but balked at switching from cable because of the high monthly fee for the channel, I would advise caution before switching. At least wait until August or so when the leagues are coming back and see who or what is available. For the upcoming season Setanta does still hold two EPL packages, so it could be worth it if they are still around.

Whizalen said...

I'm switching anyway - it's a lot cheaper than the ONE cable option in my area - just whether or not setanta is there is the issue (the $14.99/mo is cheaper than what I get raped by comcast to have FSC). Push comes to shove, I can just buy the online version of the Arsenal channel which I thought about doing last year anyway.

ESPN/2 COULD show the 7am Saturday game. 10am creeps close to what are noon kickoffs on the east coast - we typically have games start at 10am here (Denver) of lesser conferences that want the tv revenue (i.e. Conference USA). Plus, ESPN would lose their eight-hour pregame show and who wants that?

I don't think they'd not show games in the US. My concern is that it's only one game a week and ends up like the old Fox Sports one-game-a-week (on a three day tape delay!) and it's always Man U or Liverpool - hey, we can tie in the owners to the NFL! Score cross-promotion! Someone, somewhere, kicked around the idea of turning ESPN Classic into ESPN Soccer which would be a fantastic idea. Spinning a new channel a la ESPNU would also be attractive.

Btw, Tommy Smyth and Derek Rae often talk about covering La Liga games. What's the story with that? And if you have American commentators, why aren't they showing a game-a-week during dead time at the very least?

ü75 said...

ESPN might hold some international rights (my guess--likely Caribbean) for La Liga. I do not know for sure, but that would be where they would do an English language broadcast. GolTV have the American rights for La Liga. That channel shows up with FSC on the DirecTV sports tier. Sadly, GolTV is only on the Spanish language tier for my cable.

The Fan's Attic said...

ESPN International was a channel in Jamaica that showed a ton of footie when I was there last November. I don't know if that channel exists elsewhere, so it could have been that one.

ü75 said...

Yeah, that's the channel I'm thinking of. I've seen it on a couple of Caribbean cruises.

EbullientFatalist said...

Everyone makes excellent, valid points, and I agree with all of them. If ESPN does purchase Setanta, that doesn't necessarily mean we're gonna get more footie; ESPN has had great opportunities to show La Liga and Serie A over the past few years (since after WC 2006, at least) and hasn't. Why? It has to be the viewership numbers and the advertising. Does ESPN want to give up 90+ minute chunks of time and lose out on ad bucks when they can show a college football game that has a stoppage of play every 2 minutes?

Mike Georger said...

And don't forget, college basketball, which takes up more of the season, starts earlier in the day than college football.

God I don't want ESPN.

comearoundruby said...

As an American girl considering switching to satellite just for Setanta, this is all highly irksome. I just want my football. And by football, like Whizalen before me, I mean Arsenal.

I'm coming to loathe-love FSC and was highly looking forward to Setanta.

EbullientFatalist said...

I want my Ar-sen-al.

And by "Arsenal" I mean 72 pts and fourth place. And youngsters. Many, many youngsters.

comearoundruby said...

72 points, 4th place....but oh the potential! (but my God am I sick of hearing about potential)