BT takes over ESPN UK channels

  • BT Sports viewers to access ESPN UK's sporting portfolio of events.
  • ESPN Classics to close across Europe. 
  • Current ESPN subscriber's service to remain unaffected until July.

BT Group is to take over ESPN's UK and Ireland TV channels from the 31st July 2013 subject to regulatory clearance. 

BT will continue to operate at least one ESPN branded channel, to be contained within the forthcoming BT Sport TV package, launching this summer.

The deal adds ESPN UK sports rights to BT's portfolio, meaning that BT Sport customers will gain live access to the FA Cup during the 2013/14 season and Clydesdale Bank SPL matches until the 2016/17 season. Sports currently shown on ESPN America will also join BT Sports' portfolio of events.

ESPN will continue to operate its online media services in the UK including ESPN.co.uk and ESPNcricinfo.

Mark Watson, chief executive of TV, BT Retail, said: "We are delighted to have reached agreement with ESPN for the acquisition of their UK sports channels business and that we have been able to add some exciting new sports rights to the ones we already have."

The deal paves the way for BT to take over ESPN's EPG slots / channel numbers on digital TV platforms. At this stage it is not known what will happen with the part-time ESPN service on digital terrestrial TV channel 34, currently available via Top Up TV and BT Vision. 

However, in a statement today, BT has promised that "until completion, the service for current subscribers to the ESPN channels across all television platforms remains unchanged."

In a further announcement, it has been confirmed that the ESPN Classic channel is to be wound down and closed. ESPN says that this is unrelated to the deal with BT and will affect all ESPN Classic viewers in Europe, Middle East and Africa. ESPN America is also to be wound down outside of the UK and Ireland.

Today's announcement follows several weeks of speculation, which started on the 1st February when reports emerged that ESPN was looking at offloading sports rights following the loss of several key Football rights to BT last year. 

updated: 15:44
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