Agency: Grey London
By Tristan O'Carroll, mediaweek.co.uk, Tuesday, 08 December 2009 10:00AM
It is understood that a deal is in place between Disney-backed ESPN and the Football Association. However, an official announcement is not expected until later today (8 December).
ESPN declined to comment on the FA Cup rights, but said: "As we have always said, we continue to be interested in rights where they are available and where they make business sense.
"Our approach is to grow globally and we will achieve that by being as locally relevant as possible."
The deal will be welcomed at the FA, which had faced an income shortfall of millions of pounds following the collapse of Setanta earlier this year, which had held the FA Cup rights.
However, the ESPN deal will not kick in until the start of next season. So, in the meantime, it is thought that the FA will continue to sell the rights to games on a round-by-round basis. In previous rounds of this year's tournament, the FA has sold one game to ITV and another shown online.
In 2007, Setanta and ITV paid £425m for the rights over the coming four seasons. Previously, the rights were split between the BBC and Sky.
The deal is a coup for ESPN, which this year has built up its first major live British sports rights portfolio.
It is thought to have spent hundreds of millions of pounds acquiring its first live English Premier League TV rights in the UK as well as rights for the Scottish Premier League, numerous continental European football leagues and other sports such as rugby and cricket.
The new FA Cup rights will also bolster its appeal to sports fans: from next season, the number of English Premier League it will air in the UK will halve, from 46 this season, to 23.
This article was first published on mediaweek.co.uk