Setanta Scouts for Cup Sublicensees

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These days, Simon Green is running as fast as a striker with space on the flank.

Green, the CEO of Setanta Sports North America, is in a rush to score sublicensing agreements with programmers and distributors for secondary-language rights in the U.S. to the upcoming 2006 World Cup in Germany.

In a deal inked with Infront Sports & Media in early March, Setanta Sports, which operates a premium network dedicated to rugby and European soccer available via DirecTV Inc.'s satellite platform, obtained German, Italian, Polish, French and other foreign-language rights from the Far and Middle East to all 64 World Cup matches that will play out from June 9 to July 9.

Green has been working feverishly to sign up networks or carriers to sublicense those match rights, which Setanta figures will catch the attention of expatriates interested in the world's largest sporting event covered in their mother tongues.

“In many ways, we're behind the curve. But it's the World Cup and people are listening,” said Green, who anticipates announcing a sublicensee lineup by mid-month. The Cup deals, he believes, would afford parties a strong subscriber-acquisition tool, and could encompass rights to the entire tournament, a select number of matches, or video-on-demand availability.

Green did note that the English-language Setanta Sports network, which launched last April 25 on DirecTV and is available for $11.99 per month at channel 615, would likely present the World Cup matches in German. As its own acquisition tool, the premium service will also offer 100 hours of World Cup programming, including previews of each of the 32 sides in the tournament, as well as World Cup qualifiers and other soccer-related programming from its library.

Based in San Francisco, Setanta Sports North America is owned by Dublin-based Setanta Sports, which also operates pay TV networks abroad. The U.S. arm also runs Setanta Broadband, which offers streamed rugby and soccer matches, and Setanta Premium, which delivers live events via satellite to sports bars.

Green doesn't anticipate much World Cup pub business for Setanta, as ESPN, which holds U.S. English-language rights for the World Cup, and Spanish-language rights-holder Univision will be on-screen.

Green, who expects to add one or two more distribution deals for its regular soccer/rugby programming before year's end, said that holding the World Cup rights will raise the company's profile as it looks to conclude long-term contracts.