ESPN UK to sell rights to BT or BSkyB?

The future of ESPN UK became a talking point during a Walt Disney Company investors call asIn a conference call earlier this week as James Rasulo, senior executive vice-president and chief financial officer of The Walt Disney Company, said ESPN had “experienced losses” in the UK due to the increasing cost of sports rights. Moreover, Rasulo said Disney was “exploring an exit” for the UK business saying, “At this point we are exploring an exit from that, but I don’t really want to talk.”

The challenge facing the network is the result of losing the rights to Barclays Premier League football to BT. BT takes over coverage in the 2013 season and according to Sportcal, ESPN’s rights to broadcast German soccer’s top-tier Bundesliga, the Scottish Premier League, England’s FA Cup, the top domestic knockout clubs competition, and the Europa League, Europe’ second-tier clubs competition, have been offered to BT, the telecoms giant that is launching two sport channels this year, and British Sky Broadcasting, the leading pay-television operator in the country.

Broadcast magazine reports that ESPN’s package of rights could be worth more than £15m. Its other events include the Scottish Premier League (SPL) and the German Bundesliga, while the broadcaster also airs US sport, such as Major League Baseball. However, any deal is likely to be fraught with complications, and negotiations are likely to be protracted.


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