Virgin Media in sports deal with Setanta

From Guardian Unlimited
Pay-TV group Setanta and Virgin Media have made another move to dent arch-rival BSkyB with a new TV sports package for Virgin’s cable customers. From July 26, new and existing customers who take Virgin Media’s XL basic TV package will get six Setanta sports channels for free.

Customers of any other Virgin Media TV service who want to add these Setanta channels to their service will be able to do so for £8 a month.

The move comes ahead of the start of the new football season on August 11, and ratchets up the pressure on Sky as it loses its exclusivity on live Premiership coverage.

Sky has also been unable to counter Setanta’s presence on digital terrestrial platform Freeview, as its plans to launch a new pay-TV offering including Sky Sports have been held up by the regulator Ofcom.

Setanta said that today’s deal with Virgin Media means cable subscribers will get live coverage from more than 250 showcase events a year.

Virgin and Setanta also said the deal means that from the start of the new football season – because of the change to the Premier League broadcasting rights – Virgin Media will be the only provider to offer all the Premiership matches under a single contract.

Virgin Media’s chief executive of content, Malcolm Wall, said: “This deal will transform the world of TV sport and makes our XL TV package the best of its kind in the UK. When we launched Virgin Media last February, we said we were going to shake things up, provide something unique and give our customers superior offerings. Today we’re making a down payment on our promise by giving our customers the very best sporting action combined with unbeatable value.

“But this is only the beginning. In terms of both sport and other new high-value content, there’s much more to come from Virgin Media.”

Setanta and Virgin insisted the move was not a promotional stunt and will form part of Virgin’s offering on an “ongoing basis”.

Earlier this month Setanta unveiled a new price plan for Freeview and satellite viewers, slashing the price of its sports offering to £9.99 a month.

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