Setanta fails to secure financing

ESPN, BSkyB eye rights to Premier League matches

LONDON -- Sports broadcasters including ESPN and BSkyB are poised to bid for sports rights being re-auctioned after embattled programmer Setanta Sports failed to secure new financing, despite eleventh-hour weekend bailout talks.

Setanta's biggest program asset -- live rights to 46 upcoming Premier League matches -- will be put back on the auction block by the Premier League this week, after Setanta failed to make ongoing payments.

Other rights including Scottish Premier League matches and rights to the U.S. PGA tournament will also revert to rights holders if, as expected, Setanta goes into bankruptcy protection.

Setanta execs are thought to have spent the weekend in talks to secure some kind of future, but the loss of the Premier League rights is thought to be a major blow.

Earlier this month it looked as though Russian-born industrialist Leonard Blatavnik might step in as an investor, taking ownership of the company.

Setanta had also been looking for a sale of its international businesses, but so far no buyer has been found.

ESPN and BSkyB are thought most likely to pick up one package each of Setanta's Premier League matches, giving each rights to 23 matches. Setanta paid £392 million ($647 million) for the broadcast rights three years ago, but the value now is likely to be much less.

Under European Union competition law, BSkyB cannot hold rights to both packages as it already has four packages of Premier League matches airing on the Sky Sports channels it operates.