Setanta Sports gets kicks from World Cup

World Cup soccer might not be a huge draw for the average American TV viewer but it does promise to be popular for millions of non-English speaking citizens and foreign residents. That’s one reason Setanta Sports North America, which helps foreigners in the U.S. keep on top of sports taking place in their home countries, acquired secondary-language TV rights in the U.S. for the 2006 FIFA World Cup which starts in June.

“The totality of interests in the U.S. is quite big,” says Simon Green, Chief Executive, Setanta Sports North America. “Most U.S. viewers can be served by the English and Spanish carriage on ESPN and Univision but there are many other ethnic communities from around the world.”

Setanta currently has three outlets here in the U.S.: a channel on DirecTV, a new Setanta Broadband service, and a satellite service that feeds rugby, soccer, and Irish GA sports to pubs and bars across the U.S. (it also has a pay-per-view deal with InDemand but it is not branded Setanta). Transport service provider GlobeCast handles the delivery of the signal via satellite to proprietary set-top boxes at the bars and also makes it available over its own WorldTV service. The content sold to bars is on a per-event basis (maybe 25-30 events a month) with the company trying to arrange it so that the events in bars are different from the live events on the DirecTV service (some games that air live in bars do appear on the DirecTV service at a later date to amortize costs).

“The majority of our business is with hundreds of bars across the U.S., particularly in areas like New York and Boston,” says Green. “We work with them on a revenue share basis where they let us know how many people turned out for a match. It’s a relationship based on trust.”

Its TV network, Setanta Sports, is available on DirecTV for $11.99 a month and is also available on GlobeCast WorldTV for the same price. This year, the network will air more than 500 live events, including top rugby events like the Heineken European Cup, Guinness English Premiership, and Celtic League. Soccer rights include programming from Manchester United TV and Chelsea TV and soccer events like UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup and FIFA’s Carling Cup.

Grabbing the World Cup is a big deal for the company that has been in business for the past decade. Among the rights awarded to Setanta are European languages such as German, Italian, Polish and French as well as languages from Asia (excluding Korean and Japanese) and the Middle East.

“We will sub-licenses out many of the languages we acquired and keep one of the primary languages like German as the main language,” says Green. The secondary audio channel will be used to deliver audio in a language tailored to fans of one of the competing teams.

“The trick to this service is marketing it effectively,” says Green. “A lot of the fans are easy to track down because they’ll visit our online Web site and visit the chat rooms.”

The company’s future plans involve expanding to Canada and getting more cable carriage. “We just launched last April so we didn’t expect cable carriage this year,” says Green.