BSkyB, Setanta play soccer hardball

EPL will receive $2.6 billion from TV rights

Disney’s ESPN has failed in its bid to gain British TV rights to English Premier League soccer matches, with the final two of six packages awarded Friday to satcaster BSkyB and subscription sports specialist Setanta.

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.-controlled BSkyB won bidding to four packages on Wednesday.

In all, the EPL said it will receive £1.8 billion ($2.6 billion) from TV rights from the 2010-11 through 2012-13 seasons, slightly up on the $2.55 billion from its current three-year deals. The contracts cover 138 games per season.

ESPN, which had hoped to expand its European programming, said in a statement it was “disappointed in the outcome.”

However, Premier League CEO Richard Scudamore was “pleased and relieved at the outcome.”

He added: “These are not necessarily the best economic times we could do this. The clubs can plan knowing this is the lion’s share of their income.”

BSkyB will have rights to 115 games per season, including 38 first-choice matches. Dublin-based Setanta will get the remaining 23 matches each season.

Under European Commission rules, no single broadcaster can hold more than five of the six packages.

Foreign rights are sold separately. U.S. rights are shared by Fox Soccer Channel, also Murdoch controlled, and Setanta.

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