EXCLUSIVE: Setanta Sports Lands DISH Deal

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Setanta Sports North America will begin airing on EchoStar’s DISH Network today, August 2, representing the second major carriage deal for the international sports network.

 Already on DirecTV since its April 2005 launch, Setanta is now available in approximately 30 million homes. 

 “This DISH Network deal is very important for us obviously,” says network chief Roger Hall. “It was a long time coming, and we are glad it is done.”

 Hall will now turn his attention to securing carriage on major cable operators for a subscription-based linear channel.

 “We hope this DISH Network deal will add further impetus to [cable deals],” says Hall, whose goal is to have some new agreements by early 2008.

 Setanta is also looking at ways to bring high-definition broadcasts into the mix, in which Hall says cable companies have expressed an interest during negotiations.

 “They asked us to look at that possibility, and we will take a good look at that for them,” he says. 

 Most of Setanta’s current programming is in standard definition, but Hall says, if a decision were made to pursue an HD roll-out, it could be done in approximately a 12-month time frame.

 “I wouldn’t want to position that the only way [cable companies] would take Setanta is in HD,” he says. “We are looking at it very seriously in a relatively short time window, but it is not necessary to get cable company distribution.”

 Hall also acknowledges that the arrival of British soccer star David Beckham to play for Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy can only help his network, despite the fact it is not a MLS rights holder.

 “He does help,” he says. “Anything that puts soccer as a priority on the back pages, and even the front page, has to be helpful for soccer broadcasters.”

 Setanta’s North American network, which features sporting events such as soccer’s popular English Premier League (a package it splits with Fox Soccer Channel) and this September’s rugby World Cup, will be available to DISH subscribers for $14.99 per month and to businesses starting at $100 per month.

 The network will be offered free in DISH Network’s “Preview Showroom” on channel 284 from August 2 through September 5.

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