Setanta chases fresh targets

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Named after a mighty hunter of Irish mythology, Setanta has found itself fresh hares to chase, announcing a new break-even target of more than 1.5m direct subscribers to its sports channels.

The privately-held Dublin-based company currently has between 1m and 1.1m direct subscribers and almost 2m who use its services indirectly on other platforms such as British Sky Broadcasting’s satellite system or Virgin Media’s cable service.

Richard Brooke, corporate development director of Setanta, told the FT that with current annual revenue of about £300m, they were chasing growth stimulated by an expansion of the live football they could offer viewers.

“By April 2009, we want to have 4m subscribers overall, with north of 1.5m of those being premium subscribers,” he said.

Although Setanta benefited from an EU ruling in 2006 that live football rights to the Premier League could not be held by a single broadcaster – allowing it to show 46 games live compared with BSkyB’s previous monopoly of 138 games per season – it has recognised that it needs more to catch its quarry.

“The Premier League is great, but it is not enough on its own,” said Mark O’Meara, chief executive of Setanta UK.

“You have to have trigger events. That is why in the coming season we will have the Community Shield, live FA Cup games, England’s home friendlies and away World Cup qualifiers.

“There will be weekends in January when Sky will have nothing in the way of live football and we will be the only place to be.”

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