ESPN Nets Rights To 48 BPL Matches In U.S.

On the eve of the kickoff of the English circuit's 2009-10 season, ESPN2 has scored rights to up to 48 live Barclays Premier League matches.
Through a deal with Fox Sports International, ESPN2 will televise BPL matches, beginning Aug. 15, through the conclusion of the campaign next May. Deal terms were not disclosed.

Starting with the opener between Chelsea and Hull on Aug. 15, ESPN2 will feature one match at 7:45 a.m. (ET) on Saturdays. ESPN2 will also present select matches at 10 a.m. on Saturdays, in the absence of matches in the aforementioned window, plus a dozen live games on Monday afternoons in the States.

Those matches were presumably culled from the package of games premium network  Setanta USA sublicensed from Fox Soccer Channel here.

With the deal in place, ESPN and FSC apparently will go head-to-head on occasion with BPL matches in the 10 a.m. window. According to its just released schedule, ESPN2 will air Wigan Athletic vs. defending BPL champion Manchester United on Aug. 22 at that time, while FSC is slated to show Manchester City-Wolverhampton.

ESPN2's first Monday match: Liverpool-Aston Villa on Aug 24 at 2:55 p.m.
ESPN, Fox, and Setanta officials didn't return emails seeking further explanation late Friday night on the East Coast.
The deal comes on the boots of ESPN picking up the rights to 46 BPL matches in the U.K. during the 2009-10 season from Setanta Sports, which couldn't make its payments and fell into receivership in that nation. The worldwide leader converted its ESPN America service on Aug. 3 to showcase those games, as well as the international sports and an array of U.S.-oriented sports that previously aired on the channel.

ESPN2, after being outbid by Fox Soccer International and Setanta US for the UEFA Champions League, secured rights to Europe's other top futbol circuit, Spain's La Liga, via a deal with Gol TV in June. Through the 2011-12 season, ESPN2 will be able to air up to 20 matches, while ESPN Deportes can show up to 114.

In announcing the English league pact, ESPN vice president of programming Scott Guglielmino said: "The Barclays Premier League is one of the crown jewels of professional sports throughout the world. We're pleased to work with Fox Sports International to bring some of the league's marquee matchups to ESPN2 in our continued efforts to serve soccer fans in the United States."

"FSI is pleased to have reached an agreement with ESPN2 to expand the distribution of BPL match action in the US for the coming season," said David Sternberg, executive vice president and general manager of Fox Sports International in a statement.

This agreement marks the return of the EPL to ESPN in the U.S.. During the 1996-97 and 1997-98 campaigns, ESPN2 was the English-language television home for the circuit's Monday night matches.