ESPN win rights to rival Sky

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Disney-owned broadcaster ESPN could emerge as a serious rival to Sky's dominance of Premier League coverage after winning the rights to screen all the live matches previously held by Setanta.

The Premier League announced on Monday night that ESPN not only outbid Sky to win both the two packages of live games for next season, 46 in all, but also the package of 23 matches per season for the 2010-13 period.

It is understood the deals will mean the top-flight clubs neither lose out nor gain financially - ESPN will cover the £159million Setanta were due to pay for 2010-13, minus the deposit already paid by the Irish broadcaster, plus the money outstanding on the 46 games for next season.

ESPN's success means that a heavyweight broadcaster with huge resources and long experience in sports rights is now a potential rival for Sky for Premier League rights in the long term.

Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore said in a statement: "The Premier League is extremely pleased to have added ESPN as a UK rights holder.

"They have a formidable worldwide reputation and experience in sports and I am sure we will enjoy a long and fruitful relationship with them. I would like to thank ESPN, as well as all the other broadcasters who submitted bids, for their professionalism and effort in engaging in our sales process at such short notice.

"The timescale of our process was tight to say the least, and it is to the great credit of ESPN that they committed themselves to adding Barclays Premier League football to their already impressive portfolio of sports rights.

"The speed at which we have been able to conclude this deal means that the preparations for next season will be able to continue without interruption and fans and clubs will have certainty over the broadcasting of Barclays Premier League matches for the next four seasons."

The Premier League did not reveal that the 2010-13 games were also up for grabs when they issued the invitation to tender last week, on the grounds that that might further undermine confidence in Setanta.

The news that they had lost those games too is likely to be the final nail in their coffin. It followed the Scottish Premier League's announcement that they too have pulled the plug on Setanta and are auctioning off their live rights.

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

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