Another one bites the dust. It might have a little more gravitas and invoke a little more patriotic sadness amongst the Irish community worldwide – particularly because Setanta pioneered ex-pat sports delivery to the global diaspora and its international arm continue to retain the worldwide rights to broadcast the GAA All-Ireland Championships on an international basis – but another fringe satellite channel has aimed too high, shot for the moon and failed to land amongst the stars.
Setanta was a wonderfully noble concept. Other satellite channels assumed they could grab the viewers in the hundreds of thousands and make a killing from premium phone lines. Setanta went for the bigger fish: why not try to get hold of the Premier League rights, or emerging fry like UFC?
There’s little to be said of Setanta’s life but thousands of miles of newsprint about the reasons it failed. The financial climate of course played its part, but realistically it came down to numbers. Setanta may only have gotten 69% of the customer base it needed to break even, but it still enticed 1.3m households to say, “yes, this is something I want to buy into”, and that’s no mean feat. What it may mean, though, is that Sky have simply become too big to compete with.
ESPN have swooped in to snap up the Premier League rights, arranging a standalone channel that’ll appear on the Sky platform (among others) and making a point of avoiding Setanta’s model of selling their own subscriptions. Whether the channel will be a pay-per-view effort like the short-lived PremPlus or whether Sky will have to pay ESPN to carry the channel, it’ll face a big uphill challenge trying to crack a monopoly that just keeps on growing and growing.
Will we miss it though? Well, it depends on what you got out of the channel. If you watched it for UFC, it’ll be on Bravo (probably) so things will live on just as they were. If you watched it for more innovative programming like Football Matters, hosted by the actually pretty great James Richardson, you’ll be hoping that some other channel takes back the not-so-groundbreaking-but-still-great formula of taking one fan from each club and putting them all in a room to talk to each other – it’s like Big Brother’s Big Mouth for sane people.
If, though, you watched it for the Premier League, will you miss it? Realistically, probably not. There was something parculiarly vacuous about Setanta’s Premiership coverage. The analysis was equally as bland and braindead as Sky’s (Jamie Redknapp saying Ronaldo is a “quality” player, versus Steve McManaman saying Ronaldo is a “great” player – spot the ball difference) but the actual match coverage seemed void and limp; even simple thinks like the volume of the crowd noise made the broadcasts pub-unfriendly and ultimately every match, no matter how high the Premier League stakes may have been, seemed like a token international friendly with nothing happening on screen, nothing happening in studio, and nothing happening in the subscriptions department.
I’ll miss Setanta, but only for the David versus Goliath notion that it was a pair of Irish lads who started off renting a pub in London to show an Ireland match in Italia 90, versus News Corp, BSkyB, Rupert Murdoch and Jamie fucking Redknapp. The understated approach hasn’t worked; now let’s see just how wrong ESPN get it in judging the tone that sports in Britain sits best in.
Anyway. That’s that, this  is how it unfolded (via the self-adulating method of my own Twitter account), and this is how Setanta Sports News wrapped up, a mere 112 minutes after the company slipped away.
PS – credit for the title of this post goes to the hilariously funny Football365 Twitter account, @f365 .