Setanta to launch sports news channel

From Guardian Unlimited
Setanta is to launch a sports news channel on the Virgin Media cable platform in the latest challenge to BSkyB’s supremacy in pay-TV programming.

The new channel will plug the gap left by Sky Sports News, which has not been available to cable TV viewers since the beginning of March, when Sky and Virgin failed to agree terms for a new distribution deal for the former’s basic channels.

Although the disappearance of high-profile Sky One shows such as Lost and 24 garnered most attention, one source close to Virgin said the company had been “surprised” at the level of customer complaints about losing Sky Sports News.

The deal also strengthens the burgeoning anti-Sky alliance between Virgin and Setanta, which are both striving to undermine the UK pay-TV market leader.

Providing top-level sports coverage, much of it live, has been a key driver in building Sky’s 8.6 million subscriber base in the UK and Ireland.

Setanta’s sports news channel will launch in time for the start of the football season on August 11, when the Irish group will also break Sky’s virtual monopoly on live Premiership rights.

The company’s sports programming will be available for purchase on satellite, cable and the BT Vision broadband service, but also on digital terrestrial platform Freeview, where Sky has so far been unable to launch a pay-TV offering including live football.

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