New free-to-air sports channel to launch

Update | The management team behind Setanta Sports and Premier Sport are preparing to launch a new sports channel in the UK.

FreeSports, which this week received Ofcom licences covering satellite, cable and terrestrial platforms, promises to offer a variety of sports on a free-to-air basis from the end of August.

The channel's directors include Richard Sweeney and Michael O'Rourke from Setanta Sports and Premier Sports. Setanta Sports Broadcasting Limited of Dublin is listed as third director, according to Companies House, under rules that allow companies to be directors.

Details of which competitions Freesports will show are still unclear, although the channel is due to cover tennis, rugby and football. The channel is due to launch 31st August 2017.

The management team are once again working with broadcast infrastructure company Arqiva to get the channel on to viewer's screens, having worked together since the days of Setanta Sports UK.

Arqiva has provided Freeview capacity on its COM8 multiplex, with the new channel's signal due to reach up to 3/4 of UK households via devices that support Freeview HD or Freeview Play. A placeholder for the new service now appears on Freeview 95 for viewers in the coverage area. Details about carriage on other platforms are still to be confirmed.

FreeSports will be the third sports channel to launch on Freeview since 2014. Attempts to establish a permanent sports channel on Freeview have thus far failed, with Motors TV (now known as and Front Runner both withdrawing from Freeview after a few months on air.

Setanta first announced it was planning a Freeview sports channel in 2003. From 2006, Setanta Sports operated a pay TV channel on UK digital terrestrial TV through the now defunct Top Up TV service, piggybacking on the signal carrying Freeview channels to households. Since Setanta Sports collapsed off air in the UK in 2009, the business has continued elsewhere, operated through a web of different limited companies registered in various countries, but backed by the same management team. Setanta Sports Ireland was taken over by eir Telecom at the end of 2015 and rebranded to eir Sports in 2016. Parts of the Setanta empire have continued in the UK under the Premier Sports brand since 2010.

During 2003 and 2004 there had been plans to launch a sports channel on Freeview under the Freesports brand. That channel was originally due to specialise in coverage of minority sports.

  • Updated: since first publication, information about sports content and a launch date have been confirmed. The article has been updated to contain this information.

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