Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Setanta Sent for Early Bath

Although I have not registered my thoughts on Setanta through any form of recordable medium, I am proud to announce that I called their demise some time ago. From its inception, the Southern Irish broadcaster has adopted a bullish and aggressive marketing strategy. In one of their earlier advertising campaigns, I can clearly recall how they proudly announced that "only Setanta, not Sky" possessed the British broadcasting rights to show the USPGA golf tournament. Err, really? No offence to the USPGA, but even if it was on terrestrial TV I probably wouldn't bother with it, never mind Sky. And this has proved a feature of their existence - they have attempted to muscle their way into a market which just doesn't exist in the long term. Rangers against Celtic is one thing, but who the hell cares about Falkirk versus Hibernian other than the few supporters of those clubs? In the Premier League, Setanta only had the rights to the lower band games i.e. not involving any of the so called big four, whose games Sky have the rights to. Realistically, the only games worth spending big on are those involving Rangers, Celtic, Liverpool, Man Utd, Chelsea and Arsenal. Any games not involving those clubs are quite frankly unprofitable and should be left to the terrestrial stations.

It is the general air of desperation and dishonesty about Setanta's tactics that bothers me. I know many people who have had great difficulty in cancelling their subscription, one of whom was forced to call their 'customer service' department on no less than 6 occassions, mainly due to the fact that the "disconnection documents" (whatever they are) were apparently sent to the wrong address not once but twice.  The straw that broke the camels back, however, was surely their decision not to sell on the broadcasting rights for the highlights of a crucial Croatia v England World Cup qualifier to a terrestrial broadcaster. This was generally perceived as a public relations disaster and probably did more than anything to convince potential subscribers (who were by now making household spending cuts due to the recession) that Sky was the safer and better option given the choice between the two.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this sorry episode is that bodies such as the SPL, Premier League and Football Association have apparently been willing to put so much faith in these cowboys, despite the lessons of the ITV Digital disaster. I for one am delighted that this appears to be the end of the road for Setanta, although sadly the many football clubs who rely on their television payments will not feel the same. The rumour in Scotland is that ESPN, the global sports network owned by the Disney Corporation, could acquire the unpaid broadcasting rights for the SPL. If so, it may be only a matter of weeks before we see Rangers and Celtic fighting in out in the Mickey Mouse League - quite literally!