In 2006 when Setanta successfully broke into Sky’s Premier League monopoly by earning rights to air 46 Premiership games, we finally had an alternative to Sky’s coverage. It finally had a worthy competitor, at least in theory. Soon Setanta developed into a sporting kingdom of it’s own by providing a dedicated golfing channel, coverage of the GAA, the Magners League and more. It also had unmatched airing of the big boxing fights. But this is a football website, so let’s keep it there shall we?
Setanta offered competitive football action, but at a price. No – not having to look at Pat Dolan’s waistcoat on a Saturday afternon, but the €21 monthly subscription fee they were demanding from Irish sports fans. If you were dedicated in any particular sport, you had to pay over the odds to catch the fraction of your sport Setanta offered amongst the rest.
Being a football fan, obviously, I was quite taken back when I became aware of their pricing. They offered up to two Premier League games a week, the 3 o’ clock game on their Irish channel and the evening game with Steve Macca and Co,. They provided the occasional Scottish game, and had decent FA Cup coverage including their nine hour marathon on Cup Final day last May. But for me, that’s just not enough at their price.
We all know what happened Setanta this summer. Their financial situation in the current climate caught up with them. Their competition with Sky had come to an end, and their UK branch imploded. The channels were swiftly brought to a hault, and their news channel came to a conclusion live on air. We would have to say goodbye to their audaciously bland match analysis from Pat Dolan, Les Ferdinand, Tim Sherwood and Steve Macca. Not that we’ll miss it. Their live games seemed limp and lacklustre, their match commentary felt void of the homely voice of a Martin Tyler, and the “know-it-all” nature of a co-commentator.
The Premier League rights was to be auctioned off, and we as viewers would have to either turn back to the Sky domination or hope for a newcomer to come in and take over where Setanta left off – and it was to be the business who narrowly lost out on the original auction for the EPL coverage: American giants ESPN. And from a football fan’s point of view – hallelujah!
ESPN this season are providing unprecedented football coverage. They’ve taken over Setanta’s 46 Premier League games, and will no doubt deliver far better coverage in the gantry as well as in the studio. They’ll be offering up to three Serie A matches per week, that’s over 80 for the season. Sit back, relax, and watch how Samuel Eto’o and his new teammates at Inter fare against their rivals. If you want to get into the unpredictability that is the German Bundesliga, you can with ESPN who’ll be airing up to five games per week.
Added to the Dutch Eredivisie, MLS, the Russian Premier League, Scottish football and the Portuguese league then you have got excellent football action for the season. I haven’t been hired by ESPN – but when you take their football coverage into account matched with their subscription fee – you really can’t beat it at just €12 a month.
As football fans from Britain and Ireland, we’ve been severely deprived of proper footballing action from around the globe. While Sky can set umatched English and Spanish heights, and superb quality in programming, we’ve never been handed inclusive football action from leagues like the Serie A and the Bundesliga. Maybe with ESPN, fans from this side of the water can experience the different football cultures from around Europe and take in what we’ve been missing out.