One of the key arguments as to why soccer hasn’t caught on is the fact that aside from the World Cup, Americans don’t have easy access to the highest level of play on television (also, because they act like they’ve been shot after so much as an errant glance or a stiff breeze).
That was supposed to change after Setanta’s swift, violent collapse earlier this year, but there hadn’t been much chatter about ESPN picking up the pieces of the deal stateside (even as the WWL quickly secured rights to show the games in England). With the EPL season fast approaching, it looked like another year of just scouring the Internet for highlights.
But soft! What light through yonder window breaks! It is the east, and ESPN is the sun - if by “is the sun,” we mean “just cut a deal to televise EPL games starting with the season opener between Hull and Chelsea.” Eeeee.
ESPN has acquired the TV rights to two of the weekly Premier League slots on US television for the 2009-2010 season. Beginning on August 15, 2009, each week ESPN will feature the 7:45am ET Saturday game and the 3pm ET Monday game.
Those two weekly timeslots were previously held by Setanta Sports who in the past had sub-licensed those games from Fox Soccer Channel.
Isn’t that great, Los Angeles? All you have to do is get up by 4:45 on a Saturday morning, and bang! Wayne Rooney’s right there on your television!
Anyway, EPL Talk also has the entire schedule. As mentioned before, the season opener’s Hull City and Chelsea, and it’s in just nine days, so this deal is as welcome as it was surprising.
If things go well, we may see ESPN acquire the rights to Setanta US’s (that part of the company still exists) other timeslots, including two 10 am ET Saturday matches and a handful of others during the week. This would be at subtantial cost to the WWL, of course, but if things go well and ESPN expects continued, rising success, they’ve traditionally been quite eager indeed to open the pursestrings, and perhaps the EPL will be no exception.