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Cujo

ESPN and NFL Network

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Rumour has it (and not just from World Soccer Daily) that ESPN will buy Setanta and make ESPN 3 with just European sports on it.

If that gets it off a pay per view-like tier, I'm all for it. I really enjoyed the Setanta preview week they had earlier this year, staying up some nights literally until 4am to watch things like the Irish Hurling finals or international rugby, but I couldn't justify ponying up an extra $15/month for it.

Here's how I guess it would go down based on what I know about Setanta and ESPN outside of the US:

ESPN is looking for a true foothold in Europe, as there is ESPN Europe already, but it's really limited in scope and can't bring US programming to Europe because Setanta owns most of the rights (save the NFL) to American sports in the US, which runs them through their own network called NASN (North American Sports Network).

Setanta basically runs Setanta North America on a shoestring by tossing bits of programming from their UK operations without much of any presence here in the States. As a result, they run on the pay-per-view basis.

If ESPN were to buy Setanta, they would buy it lock, stock, and barrel, enabling them to change NASN into ESPN Europe and get the foothold they have been wanting, and get into the burgeoning market for European sports in the US. ESPN, through its international operations, already has broadcasting rights for this as well as commentators, analysts, etc. for these sports. They would take what Setanta already has the rights to and use their own resources on this new network.

From there is the Big Fish: The English Premier League rights come up in 2010 and Setanta's rights are subcontracted from Fox (shown on Fox Soccer Channel). If ESPN can outbid Fox for those rights, they'd really be in business.

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