Media Lifeline: Setanta Sports

The sports network is determined to raise its profile in England after the launch of its dedicated golf channel.

1990: Ex-pat Irish businessmen Michael O'Rourke and Leonard Ryan buy access to the satellite feed of the Italia 90 World Cup game between Holland and Ireland and screen the match in the back room of a pub in Ealing, with a £10 admission charge. They lose money, but decide to go ahead and launch a pay-TV channel anyway. Setanta Sports is born.

2002: In 2002, Setanta enters an ambitious phase. It brokers a joint venture deal to launch North America Sports Network on Sky Digital in the UK and begins negotiations to take exclusive UK rights to Premier League football in Scotland.

2005: Setanta cements an already strong presence in the US with the launch, in partnership with DirectTV, of a new 24-hour sports channel, Setanta Sports, in the US. The channel features top-flight Irish, Scottish and English football, plus Champions League action and rugby.

May 2006: Setanta breaks BSkyB's monopoly of live English Premier League football coverage, winning one of the six packages up for grabs - 46 games, mainly those played on Saturday late afternoons and Monday evenings, starting with the 2007-08 season. Sky still retains the other packages - 92 plum matches, notably Sunday afternoon fixtures - but a precedent has been set.

January 2007: The Setanta Golf channel is launched. Its ambassador is the Irish golfer Darren Clarke, who will sport the Setanta logo when competing, plus he will appear in promotions. He will also appear in ad campaigns (pictured) to make Setanta as familiar in England as it is in Ireland.

Fast forward ...

2010: A milestone moment in UK media history. Setanta, now backed by a powerful group of US media interests, some of which have a history of hostility towards the Murdoch empire, bids for and wins almost all the plum packages of English Premier League football rights. The BSkyB share price plummets on the news.


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