ESPN selling British channels to BT Group

ESPN is withdrawing from British and Irish television,
announcing Monday that its channels are being sold to the BT
Group.

The U.S. sports network increased operations in Britain in 2009
after capturing some domestic rights to show English Premier League
matches.

But ESPN lost those rights, which were vital to attracting
subscribers, for next season as BT joined BSkyB in showing Premier
League games for the first time.

The sports rights currently held by ESPN will transfer to BT,
with the deal expected to be completed by July 31. Financial
details were not disclosed.

BT, whose new sport operation is based at the London Olympics
broadcast center, said at least one of its channels will continue
to carry the ESPN name.

”We could not be more proud of the TV channels built and
nurtured by our talented team over the past four years,” said Ross
Hair, ESPN’s managing director in Europe, Middle East and Africa.
”The value of that hard work is reflected in this deal with BT and
the continuation of ESPN on television screens across the UK and
Ireland.”

BT’s new channels will show the U.S. sports currently shown on
ESPN America, including college basketball, college football and
NASCAR.

The rights to show the FA Cup, Scottish Premier League,
Bundesliga and Europa League are among those that will also be
transferring to BT.

ESPN will continue to run its sports websites in Britain.

Separately, ESPN said it is considering closing down its ESPN
Classic channel in the Europe, Middle East and Africa regions.

ESPN is owned by The Walt Disney Co.