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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. Despite Setanta losing the two timeslots to ESPN, Setanta US will continue showing the two 10am ET Saturday slots (one game on Setanta US, and the other on Setanta Xtra), as well as the early Sunday morning ET kickoffs and the Tuesday and Wednesday midweek Premier League matches. The games shown by Setanta will also be available on its broadband package at http://www.setanta-i.com
ESPN's acquisition of the early Saturday morning kickoff and Monday afternoon matches are a massive coup for the Disney-owned company who have significantly increased its soccer coverage recently. ESPN has yet to make a formal announcement regarding the acquisition of the Premier League TV rights (the two timeslots), but will presumably show the games on both ESPN2 and ESPN360.
Here are what games we know for certain that will be shown on ESPN2 between August 15 and November 21 (schedules are subject to change):
Saturday, August 15:
- Chelsea v Hull City, 7:45am, ESPN2
Monday, August 24:
- Liverpool v Aston Villa, 3pm, ESPN2
Saturday, August 29:
- Chelsea v Burnley, 7:45am, ESPN2
Saturday, September 19:
- Burnley v Sunderland, 7:45am, ESPN2
Saturday, September 26:
- Portsmouth v Everton, 7:45am, ESPN2
Monday, September 28:
- Manchester City v West Ham United, ESPN2
Monday, October 5:
- Aston Villa v Manchester City, 3pm, ESPN2
Saturday, October 17:
- Aston Villa v Chelsea, 7:45am, ESPN2
Monday, October 19:
- Fulham v Hull City, 3pm, ESPN2
Saturday, October 24:
- Wolves v Aston Villa, 7:45am, ESPN2
Saturday, October 31:
- Arsenal v Tottenham, 6:45am, ESPN2
Monday, November 9:
- Liverpool v Birmingham City, 3pm, ESPN2
Saturday, November 21:
- Liverpool v Manchester City, 7:45am, ESPN2
Note: For those Saturday mornings when there isn't a 7:45am ET game available, ESPN will have first choice of the Saturday 10am game from Setanta Sports.
For supporters of Premier League clubs in the United States, this is wonderful news. Having the games shown on ESPN2 will bring the league into more homes in the United States as well as making games more accessible for TV viewers who are unable to receive Setanta. ESPN2 will kick off the Premier League 2009/2010 season by showing the first game of the season featuring Chelsea against Hull City at 7:45am ET. The game may feature the debut of American striker Jozy Altidore who today signed with Hull City.
For followers of the Premier League in the United States, supporters will need to have Fox Soccer Channel, ESPN2 and Setanta Sports to watch all of the games available. To supplement those networks, it's advisable that EPL fans also use ESPN360 and Setanta-i.
By Fox Soccer acquiring back the TV rights for the two timeslots from Setanta and sub-licensing them to ESPN, this gives Setanta Sports more financial stability. Setanta US will continue to stay in business this season and, in addition to the Premier League, will be showing Champions League football (via broadband and on TV), Carling Cup, Championship games, World Cup qualifiers, FA Cup and more.
In addition to picking up two of the Premier League TV slots previously held by Setanta Sports, ESPN also picked up the TV and broadband rights to the Australian Football League in the United States and Canada.
The US video rights for the 2010-2013 Premier League seasons have still not been finalized. With ESPN picking up two of the Premier League slots for the 2009-2010 season, the move definitely increases the likelihood that ESPN will mount a serious bid for the 2010-2013 rights when available later this year.
No news yet from ESPN regarding which broadcasters will be presenting the Premier League games and whether they'll be using in-house commentators calling the games off the screen or if they'll be using the international commentators feed.
What are your thoughts about ESPN adding the Premier League to its soccer line up, and how will it change your viewing habits if any? Click the comments link below to share your opinion.
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