ESPN UK will show live FA Cup football from next season, after agreeing a deal with the Football Association to fill the gap left by the collapse of the pay-TV broadcaster Setanta.
ESPN’s offer is thought to have been 60 per cent higher than that tabled by the BBC, however, that bid is also reported to be for a longer contract period and still worth substantially less than the amount paid by Setanta. ITV will have first pick of matches but ESPN will show two live games per round. ESPN’s deal will not start until the beginning of next season. In the meantime the FA will continue to sell the rights to one extra game per round to ITV and broadcast one free over the Internet. The online experiment has been considered a success and the FA plans to continue the innovation next season.
Next year the number of live Premier League matches that ESPN has the rights to will be halved, to 23 per season. The rights to two live FA Cup matches per round, and joint rights to the final with ITV, will give the channel access to valuable content at a time when it faces losing subscribers. The contract is thought to run for at least four years.