ESPN secures EPL slots

ESPN, which last week acquired its first live English Premier League (EPL) TV rights, has secured its presence on Freeview and is expected to launch a high- definition version of its soon-to-launch EPL channel on Sky. 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 (E294m) 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.

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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