Fox Sports International is moving toward finalizing a deal to secure key rights from or make an outright purchase of premium programmer Setanta Sports USA.
It was unclear, though, what, if any, form Setanta might take under the direction of Fox Soccer Channel here in the U.S.
The announcement could come within a matter of days, said sources familiar with the negotiations.
Representatives for both Setanta and Fox Soccer declined comment.
Web site EPL Talk, which follows England's Barclays Premier League, reported earlier this week that the FoxSoccerPlus.com domain name was registered on Dec. 9 and that Twentieth Century Fox Film. Corp. secured trademarks for both Fox Soccer Plus and Fox Soccer + for TV and the Web a week later.
Setanta Sports USA, which counts Comcast and Cox as affiliates in select markets, as well as DirecTV, Dish Network, Verizon's FiOS, AT&T's U-verse and RCN, has removed the matches from England's Barclays Premier League and UEFA Champions League from its list of properties and TV schedule on its Web site, http://www.setanta.com/US/. Poor weather in England may halt a number of BPL matches this weekend.
Fox Soccer, which controls BPL rights in the U.S., had been sublicensing them to Setanta Sports USA. Last August, on the eve of the English circuit kicking off its 2009-10 season, FSC transferred the rights to 48 of the league's matches, which had been held by Setanta, to ESPN2.
That deal came 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 sports programming giant, in turn, converted its ESPN America service on Aug. 3 to showcase those matches, as well as the international sports and an array of U.S.-oriented sports that previously aired on the channel.
Back in the States, Fox Sports International, last fall, secured the U.S. rights to the BPL for the 2010-11 through 2012-13 seasons, but has yet to announce any sublicensing deals.
For their parts, FSC and Setanta last spring, via a joint blind bid, wrested the U.S. rights to the Champions League from ESPN2 after a 15-year run.
Moreover, during Cable Show 2008 in New Orleans, FSC and Setanta announced that they had acquired the U.S. rights to the FA Cup, the oldest club knockout competition in England.
At press time, Setanta Sports USA's Web site continued to list a host of other properties. On the soccer side that still included the FA Cup, plus the Carling Cup, the Coca Cola Championship, international friendlies, Scottish Premier League, MUTV (Manchester United TV) and Chelsea TV. It also showed Gaelic Sports, such as Irish football and hurling, as well as a host of top rugby fare. (In November, Setanta Sports USA announced that it had renewed U.S. rights to an array of important rugby competitions through 2014.)
Where any of those properties might fit into Setanta under the direction of FSC, now headed by David Nathanson after David Sternberg exited last month, were among many unanswered questions at press time.
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