Setanta Sports, as expected, will pull the plug on its premium channel in the U.S. and the Caribbean on Feb. 28.
The programmer on its Web site, www. setanta.com, and through a press release issued today said that it has reached an agreement to transfer select programming rights, including premium soccer and rugby events, to Fox Soccer Channel on March 1. The document also indicated that Setanta will cease broadcasting its premium channel in the U.S. and the Caribbean.
Earlier this month, Fox Soccer Channel said it would reclaim top soccer rights -- Barclays Premier League and UEFA Champions League -- that it had been sublicensing to Setanta and that they would become part of its own premium channel, Fox Soccer Plus, which is scheduled to kick off March 1.
According to Twitter feed, broadband service, Setanta-i, will also not operate past Feb. 28.
Fox Soccer Channel had been said to be in negotiations to purchase Setanta Sports USA outright. It was unclear at press time if Fox Soccer was negotiating to take over channel positions housed by Setanta Sports USA. The premium channel currently counts DirecTV, Dish Network, Verizon FiOS, AT&T-U-verse and RCN Corp., as well as Comcast and Cox in select markets, as affiliates.
Sources suggest that Setanta Sports USA counted upward of 120,000 subscribers for its premium service.
Setanta officials in the U.S. did not respond to a request for a comment.
Fox Soccer issued the following statement: "We are finalizing the transfer of select programming from Setanta and will announce those specific rights when the negotiations are completed."
For the remainder of January and throughout February, Setanta said it would continue to broadcast its usual lineup of games from the Barclays Premier League, FA Cup, UEFA Champions League, Heineken Cup, Magners League and Guinness Premiership.
Setanta said its operations in Canada are not impacted by this transaction and will continue to operate under the joint ownership of the Setanta Group and Rogers Communications.
Commenting on the transaction, Leonard Ryan, co-founder of Setanta Sports said: "This is a significant milestone in the re-organisation of Setanta Sports, following the acquisition of Setanta's businesses in Ireland, the U.S., Canada and Australia in July 2009. Having examined several options for our U.S. business, we concluded that the best course of action for the Group is to exit the U.S. market and to concentrate on other markets where we can be a more substantial player in sports television. This transaction enables us to achieve that objective and to explore new opportunities in other markets."
Last summer, Setanta fell into receivership in the United Kingdom.
Since acquiring the non-UK businesses of the Setanta Group in July 2009, the programmer said it has refinanced Setanta Ireland, followed by renewal of key properties such as the Barclays Premier League, FA Cup and UEFA Champions League. This business, according to Setanta, remains profitable and is in a strong position in the Irish sports TV market.
In addition to Canada, where Setanta said its business is at an all-time high, the company said its portfolio in Australia is also performing well.
Elsewhere, the company said it would launch Setanta Bet, an online sports gaming system, next week.
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