Fox Soccer Channel will add a high-definition teammate come March.
Positioned at a complement to Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Soccer Plus will bow in the HD format as a premium service, kicking off March 1.
Fox Soccer Plus will present an array of Barclays Premier League, UEFA Champions League, England's FA Cup and Italy's Serie A matches, properties to which FSC already holds TV rights to in the U.S.
Relative to the BPL and UEFA Champions League content, Fox Soccer Plus will feature matches that were previously ticketed for Setanta Sports USA. FSC has been sublicensing those properties to the premium service. Setanta's rights will revert entirely to FSC and Fox Soccer Plus at the end of February. Setanta USA's Web site no longer lists those properties under its "Our Sports" heading.
Sources had indicated that Fox Soccer was negotiating to secure rights or purchase Setanta outright.
Executives at Setanta, which counts DirecTV, Dish Network, AT&T U-verse, Verizon FiOS and RCN as affiliates, as well as Comcast and Cox in select markets, were not immediately available at press time.
Fox Soccer Plus will afford distributors flexibility to position the service as a stand-alone premium channel, or to be part of a sports tier.
"We are committed to bringing the best world-class soccer experience to fans,"said David Nathanson, general manager and executive vice president of FSC, in a statement. "As America's interest in the world's game is increasing, the launch of Fox Soccer Plus will complement and enhance our current programming on Fox Soccer Channel. Fox Soccer Plus builds on our position as the preferred television destination for American soccer fans as well as expatriates who want to keep in touch with their home teams."
The launch of Fox Soccer Plus will come as both Serie A and the BPL are moving toward the latter stages of their seasons and while the FA quarterfinals are scheduled to take place. FSC officials said a schedule with teams and match times would be determined in the weeks ahead.
FSC and Setanta have been on the same side on a number of properties. At Cable Show 2008 in New Orleans, the parties announced they had acquired the U.S. rights to the FA Cup, the oldest knockout competition in England.
Last spring, Fox Sports International and Setanta gained U.S. rights to the UEFA Champions League for the 2010-11 through 2012-13 competitions, ending a 15-year run by ESPN.
But on the eve of BPL kicking off its current season last August, FSC transferred the rights to 48 of the league's matches, which had been assigned to Setanta, to ESPN. Earlier, ESPN had picked up 46 BPL matches in the U.K. from Setanta Sports in the U.K., when the programmer fell into receivership in that nation.
Last fall, Fox Sports International secured the U.S. BPL rights for the 2010-11 through the 2012-13 seasons, but has yet to announce any sublicensing deals.
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