ESPN scores Premier League rights

Rights reauctioned after collapse of Setanta

LONDON -- Disney-owned ESPN has stepped up a gear in the U.K., securing live broadcast rights to both 23-match packages of Premier League soccer rights reauctioned Monday after the collapse of Setanta Sports.

ESPN also has acquired rights to 23 matches a year from 2010 under a three-year deal that Setanta also defaulted on.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but the sports broadcaster reportedly kept payments in line with the existing contract. Setanta paid £392 million ($641 million) three years ago for the right to broadcast 46 live matches a year on its sports channel portfolio here.

ESPN, which airs a U.S. sports channel and an archive channel here, said it would launch a pay TV soccer channel here in time for the start of the soccer season on Aug. 15.

"Premier League football is one of the world's most sought-after sports properties, and we are very excited to be expanding our business in the U.K. with England's top football product," said Russell Wolff, executive vp and managing director at ESPN International. "This move demonstrates our commitment to British sports fans and our ongoing commitment to delivering football to fans around the world across a variety of media."

Premier League CEO Richard Scudamore said: "The Premier League is extremely pleased to have added ESPN as a U.K. 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."

The Premier League reauctioned the rights after ailing Irish group Setanta failed to finance a payment that was due last week. Rights to Scottish Premier League matches and PGA Golf are also thought likely to be reauctioned.