British telecom giant BT Group has agreed to purchase ESPN's
U.K. and Ireland TV channels business, which comprise the ESPN and ESPN America
channels and their live sports portfolio including the FA Cup, Scottish Premier
League, UEFA Europa League and the German Bundesliga.
The transaction is expected to be completed by July 31. BT
will continue to operate at least one ESPN-branded channel that will become
part of the BT Sport TV package that will launch this summer. BT will be able
to continue to air U.S. sports such as NCAA College Basketball, NCAA College
Football and NASCA, which aired on ESPN America. The deal will allow BT Sport
customers to see live coverage of the FA Cup for the 2013-14 season; the
Scottish Premier League until the end of the 2016-17 season; and the UEFA
Europa League and German Bundesliga through to the end of the 2014-15 season.
ESPN will maintain control of its existing digital media
businesses, including ESPN.co.uk, ESPNcricinfo (cricket), ESPNFC (soccer),
ESPNscrum (rugby), ESPNF1 (Formula 1) and broadband streaming service ESPN
Player. ESPN Classic was not included in the deal.
Marc Watson, chief executive of television, BT Retail, said:
"We are delighted to have reached agreement with ESPN for the acquisition
of their UK channels business and that we have been able to add some exciting
new sports rights to the ones we already have."