|Founded||Dublin, Ireland (1990 )|
|Defunct||January 29, 2020(except 14 ex-USSR countries)|
|Headquarters||1 Heuston South Quarter, St. John's Road, Dublin 8, Ireland|
|Current: select Eurasian countries except Russia |
Setanta Sports is a sports television company based in Dublin, Ireland broadcasting throughout select Eurasian countries except Russia. The company was formed in 1990 to facilitate the broadcasting of Irish sporting events to international audiences. The company previously operated channels in Ireland, the UK, Asia, Africa, Australia, the United States, and Canada
Setanta Sports sold the majority of its operations, however it continues to own and operate its operations in Georgia, Ukraine, and CIS.
Setanta operated Setanta Sports and Setanta Action until October 2013 when the channels were acquired by 21st Century Fox. In July 2014, Fox announced that from August 2014 the channels would be rebranded Fox Sports and Fox Sports 2. In August 2019, it was announced that the network would rebrand as ESPN Africa on 30 August 2019, due to the acquisition of 21st Century Fox by Disney.
As of August 2014 both Setanta Sports Australia and Setanta Sports Plus were sold to Al Jazeera Media Network with approval sought from regulators in Australia. The channel became BeIN Sports Australia in November 2014.
Setanta Sports previously operated a version of the channel in Canada as a joint venture with Canadian media company Rogers Communications (Setanta itself owned 20% of the network). However, its minority stake was acquired by Rogers in July 2011 and the channel was re-aligned as part of its Sportsnet networks, and become Sportsnet World on 3 October 2011. The re-launch would also come alongside an overall re-branding of the Sportsnet networks.
Setanta previously operated services in the UK, following a period of administration its UK services ceased operating.
Within the Great Britain, Setanta GB operated Setanta Sports 1 and 2, and Setanta Golf. It also operated Setanta Sports News under a joint venture with Virgin Media. Setanta GB also operated Arsenal TV, Celtic TV, LFC TV and Rangers TV with their respective clubs.
Reports on 7 June 2009 suggested that Setanta could be forced into administration that week, after failing to make payments due on TV rights. Because of late payment and renegotiation over fees by Setanta to football clubs, several British football clubs were put into financial difficulties as money promised had been spent in annual budgets. On 4 June 2009, the Scottish Premier League announced they would be paying the sums that some of the clubs were owed to avoid causing them financial problems.
On 19 June 2009, Setanta Sports failed to pay the latest instalment of £30 million (EUR35 million) it owed the English Premier League. The Premier League had to sell the rights to the 46 live matches Setanta had for the 2009/10 season. A Premier League spokesman said, "It is with considerable regret that we announce that Setanta has been unable to meet their obligations. As such the existing licence agreement between us has been terminated with immediate effect."
On 22 June 2009, it was reported by RTÉ News that the original Setanta Sports channel, Setanta Ireland, might be bought out by an existing consortium who already hold interests in Setanta Sport Holdings Ltd., the Irish arm of Setanta Sports. Setanta Sports Ireland and Setanta Sports North America were the only brands which made a profit in 2008. The same day, Setanta lost all their SPL TV rights because they were unable to pay the £3m (EUR3.5m) owed to the league. Following this, it was announced that ESPN had bought the rights to show the 46 Premier League games bought by Setanta for the 2009/10 season.
Setanta GB went into administration 22 June 2009, following failure to make payments to a number of sporting organisations. 430 jobs, 200 of which were in Ireland, were expected to be lost as a result of its going into administration. The administration was handled by Deloitte. At 18:00 that day, most of its channels ceased operations within Great Britain.
According to the final report published by Setanta's administrator Deloitte, released in July 2010, the broadcaster had outstanding bank loans of GB£261m and unsecured debt of GB£288m. Deloitte said that unsecured lenders received just 2p for every pound that they have claimed back from the defunct operator.
Just as when Sky Sports, in the 1990s, first obtained the exclusive rights to screen live coverage of the England national football team's away qualifying matches for the World Cup, so Setanta attracted similar criticism as a result of it having obtained the same contract. Whereas Sky often sold on a highlights package to a terrestrial broadcaster (BBC), Setanta indicated that the sums offered by terrestrial broadcasters, reported to be £100,000 to £200,000, were five to ten times lower than their perceived market value; Setanta paid £5 million to screen England's away qualifier with Croatia on 10 September 2008 and believed a sensible highlights package should attract a fee of £1 million. Thus, no highlights package was agreed, and Setanta themselves showed highlights of both England and Scotland qualifiers free-to-air after the live games had concluded. This was announced at 18:00 on the day the matches took place, and received 220,000 viewers. Setanta then accepted "a low, six-figure deal" with ITV to show delayed "extended highlights" a few days later.
Setanta's GB subscriber numbers were lower than those of Sky Sports, and the number of households watching the match live was estimated at around 1.5 million. Because of the availability of Setanta on both digital satellite and digital terrestrial television, the theoretical possible subscriber base surpassed that of Sky Sports (not available via DTT at the time) but fans who were unwilling to subscribe could not see the match live. British Prime Minister at the time Gordon Brown indicated he felt it "unfortunate" more fans could not see the match live for free.
Setanta GB also received significant criticism of its cancellation policy, with the issue investigated by the BBC's Watchdog programme and Radio 5 Live. While customers were able to subscribe either on-line or over the telephone, many customers found it "nigh-on impossible to cancel" the service, with the only means of a cancellation being to inform the company in writing.
Because of the amount of negative feedback received, Setanta GB eventually changed this to allow for cancellations to be done through email. Furthermore, while customers were originally entered into a 30-day notice period once their cancellation letter was received, this was increased to 60 days without any information being sent to customers; again, because of the negative feedback, this was quickly reduced back to 30 days. These customer service issues were compounded by the fact that customers had to phone a premium rate number should they have any issues to resolve, with calls costing at least 10 pence per minute.
Setanta Sports launched a variation of the channel in Asia. In 2015, Discovery International purchased the channel, as of 2016 the channel is still branded as Setanta Sports under licence from Setanta Ireland. Setanta Asia currently operates Setanta Sports Plus and Setanta Sports Asia. From 29 January 2020, Setanta Sports Asia has been replaced by the new dedicated rugby channel, Rugby Pass TV which launched its OTT service first, since February 2016.
Setanta Sports previously broadcast in the United States with Setanta Sports USA from 2005 to 2010. Fox Sports purchased the network's programming rights out of bankruptcy, adding them to Fox Soccer Channel's existing schedule and that on of a new network, Fox Soccer Plus.