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.