LONDON, June 23 – The English Premier League has awarded the rights to 46 of its live games next season to US-based broadcaster ESPN, after they were forfeited by troubled Irish channel Setanta, it said.
The Disney-owned broadcaster has been awarded the live games for next season, and also 23 matches per season previously held by Setanta for the following three seasons, until 2013, it said.
"The Premier League is extremely pleased to have added ESPN as a UK rights holder," said Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore.
"They have a formidable worldwide reputation and experience in sports and I am sure we will enjoy a long and fruitful relationship with them."
The English Premier League invited bids for the games after Setanta failed last Friday to make a scheduled payment of 30 million pounds (35 million euros, 49 million dollars), thereby losing its rights to broadcast 46 EPL games.
Scudamore welcomed the fact that an alternative broadcast partner was found quickly. "The speed at which we have been able to conclude this deal means that the preparations for next season will be able to continue without interruption," he said.
"Fans and clubs will have certainty over the broadcasting of Barclays Premier League matches for the next four seasons."
ESPN International head Russell Wolff said: "Premier League football is one of the world’s most sought-after sports properties. We are very excited to be working with the Premier League and expanding our businesses in the UK.
"This move demonstrates our commitment to British sports fans and our ongoing commitment to delivering football to fans around the world across a variety of media."
As well as ESPN, Sky television had been expected to bid for some of the EPL games forfeited by Setanta.
Under an agreement with the European Commission, the English Premier League cannot sell all its live matches to a single broadcaster.
As well as losing the EPL games, Setanta suffered another blow Monday when the Scottish Premier League (SPL) said the broadcaster had failed to make a three million pound payment in time, despite extending a deadline.
"We set three deadlines and we wanted to work with Setanta who have been a great partner of ours," said SPL boss Lex Gold, adding that the broadcaster had been given "every possible chance to work through the problems that they had.
"That process has been lengthy and intensive but the deadline today was the final deadline," he lamented.
The Scottish Premiership, which is far less lucrative than the EPL, was open to offers, he said. "We are now actively engaging in the process of selling our domestic broadcasting rights for next season and beyond."
Setanta still holds rights to other major fixtures including some England matches, the FA Cup, US PGA golf and Guinness Premiership rugby from next year.