After loosing its rights to both some Premiership football games and Premiership rugby union, ESPN has given up the ghost in the UK, like Setanta before it, reportedly selling out to BT.
So, at least there is a new sports channel operator to provide a foil to Sky. But I suspect that this will again be short lived.
Broadcast television has become a five part industry:
Sport - largely live football
Competitions - from reality to talent
Box sets - series, usually crime based
Interest TV - nature, Hitler and other programmes that make people watch, or short films on YouTube
These, not surprisingly, are the mainstays of Sky.
So, where does BT (market cap $32bn) go ? They need to provide the me too stuff plus. So, the plus they're offering is sports. But they can't afford to not offer it to other players like Virgin and Sky, so, what's the point ?
ESPN is part of Disney (market cap $100bn), so this is a telecom company betting the farm on a business it doesn't understand. but with Virgin Media coming hard after their core market, perhaps BT isn't so naive. Or is it ?
These are big bets, and only one company has ever been able to leverage sports successfully in the UK.