ESPN secures outlets and ad sales for Premier League TV

LONDON - ESPN, which last week acquired its first live English Premier League (EPL) TV rights in the UK, has secured its first presence on Freeview and is expected to launch a high-definition version of its soon-to-launch EPL channel on Sky.

ESPN America screens live baseball
ESPN America screens live baseball

Broadcasting on Freeview pay-TV service Top Up TV, ESPN America is using a channel previously occupied by Setanta, which went into administration last week.

ESPN will broadcast live EPL action in the UK for the first time in its history, after landing the rights to air 46 games for the 2009/2010 season and 23 games in each of the three following seasons.

It is understood to have paid about £250m for EPL rights over the next four seasons.
Access to the 9.9 million homes that Freeview, both free-to-air and via pay-TV through Top Up TV, provides is key for ESPN as it looks to sign up enough subscribers to make its EPL investment pay off.

The Disney-backed sports broadcaster has also struck what it termed "interim" deals with Sky and BT Vision to make ESPN America available via these operators' platforms.

On Freeview and BT Vision, it is understood ESPN America could, among several options, revert to the new EPL channel ESPN will launch in time for the upcoming football season to air its EPL coverage.

An ESPN spokesman said: "We have come to this interim solution with Sky, Top Up TV and BT Vision to make sure US sports fans and existing subscribers to ESPN America can continue to watch the channel while we make permanent arrangements."

Separately, it is understood Sky Media is confirmed as sales house for ESPN's new EPL-focused channel. The deal, thought to be multimillion-pound, means Sky Media will handle ad sales around every EPL match aired live on UK television.

Meanwhile, ESPN is understood to be working on deals to wholesale its new EPL channel to Top Up TV, Virgin Media and BT Vision. It already has such a deal with Sky, with the pay-TV platform marketing and retailing the channel instead of ESPN.

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