Premier League terminates Setanta deal

LONDON - The English Premier League terminated its live-match contract with struggling Irish broadcaster Setanta on Friday, saying the company had been unable to meet its payments. Shortly after the announcement Access Industries, a potential investor in the Dublin-based group, said it had also failed to reach agreement and would not now be investing in the broadcaster. "It is with considerable regret we announce Setanta has been unable to meet their obligations," the Premier League said in a statement. "As such the existing licence agreement between us has been terminated with immediate effect. The Premier League will now go ahead and market the 46 UK live matches for the 2009-10 season." The broadcaster, which employs around 440 staff, said it would now review its options. "The board of Setanta notes the statement issued earlier today by the Premier League and will consider its options over the weekend," it said. "In the meantime Setanta's sports channels continue on air." The Disney-owned sports network ESPN failed to win the rights for English matches in the latest auction earlier this year and is likely to bid again, although analysts believe they will offer a much lower price. Dominant pay-TV firm BSkyB will continue to deliver its four broadcast packages, or 93 matches, next season. SPORTS RIGHTS Setanta had teetered on the brink of administration for most of this month after missing payments for sports rights and the management had said it was fighting to refinance and secure its future. The company was in trouble after failing to secure the number of subscribers needed to cover the cost of its sports rights. Setanta missed a three million pounds payment to the Scottish Premier League this month and was told by the English Premier it needed to pay an instalment by this Friday or lose the rights to show next season's games. Setanta began after Michael O'Rourke and Leonard Ryan charged fans to show an Irish World Cup match, which was not available on British channels, in a pub in London in 1990. It grew quickly, acquiring the rights to show sports around the world but has since struggled to meet payments. The group has 1.2 million direct subscribers and needs around 1.9 million to break even, according to analysts. The long-term viability of Setanta's business model was thrown into doubt this February when it failed to hold on to the rights to show its desired number of English Premier matches, a key draw for viewers. Setanta held the rights to show two English Premier packages, or 46 live matches a season, but lost out to BSkyB in the auction for the next three-year deal. From August 2010 it was due to show 23 games per season against BSkyB's 115.