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Thumbs up New Death throes at Setanta? - 10-June-2009, 12:40

Death throes at Setanta?

Written by Chris Forrester

It is tough getting hard news on the state of play at struggling pay-TV operator Setanta, as sources at the company contemplate their next move. But the prospects are not good.

Professor Chris Brady of the BPP Business School told the BBC on June 8 that there were recognised problems with customer service. This, as well as the combination over weaker-than-anticipated subscriber numbers, plus the uncertainty over the companys financial future is doing little to help the companys cash flow.

"They have predicated the whole thing on getting those subscribers. The problem is they are taking on Goliath in BSkyB," Prof Brady told the BBC. Not only did Setanta have only a small percentage of televised Premier League games, but they tended to be "weaker" matches, he added.

The Scottish Premier League has reportedly given Setanta more time to come up with the 3m it owes, as well it might given that the alternatives for the SPL are grim. It is far from certain that any new broadcaster would pay the current 13.5m annual fee for SPL games.

Indeed, this is the dilemma facing all of Setantas sports rights holders. By and large they have done well out of Setantas contracts and it is doubtful whether any incoming pay-TV broadcaster would match Setantas former bids. There are widespread reports that certain Scottish soccer clubs face a tough time and even financial collapse if next seasons games are not securely financed soon.

There continues to be gossip that Disney-owned ESPN might come in with an offer for Setanta, thereby ensuring that the rights stay complete and out of the clutches of BSkyB. "It would be better for all of us if Setanta can piece something together, because this is not a good time to be scrambling around in search of a new broadcasting contract," said a spokesman for the SPL, talking to The Scotsman newspaper.

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