The transition from Setanta Sports to Fox in the premium soccer space has kicked off.
An ad touting Fox Soccer Plus, which is scheduled to launch March 1 as a high-definition, premium channel, aired before Setanta's coverage of the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Bolton on Saturday, Jan. 30.
According to someone watching the match, a crawl pointing viewers toward Fox Soccer Plus also ran shortly after the game began.
Setanta, which Fox Soccer Channel was reported to be in negotiations with for an outright purchase of the premium programmer that launched in the U.S. in 2005, will cease its operations in the U.S. and the Caribbean on Feb. 28. Setanta, whose home page also indicates Fox Soccer Plus is coming on March 1 and directs users toward it via an email address and toll-free phone number, issued a release on Jan. 27 indicating that it would cease its run in the U.S. and the Caribbean and that is tranferring soccer and rugby rights to Fox. However, details of those properties have not been disclosed.
Setanta did not respond to a request for comment, while Fox officials declined to comment.
RCN -- which is notifying its customers about Setanta's situation via this month's bill, as well as by postcards to the premium channel's subscribers -- said Setanta has been running a crawl saying: "Beginning March 1, watch matches from this league on Fox Soccer Channel and Fox Soccer Plus. For more information go to foxsoccerplus.com."
For its part, RCN has inserted its own crawl message, in block capitals, on Setanta's air, reading: "Attention: Effective February 28, 2010, Setanta Sports will cease its U.S. broadcast operations and will no longer be on the air. Call 800.Ring.RCN with any questions."
One Dish customer told Multichannel News that he saw a crawl on a midweek match on Setanta that also pointed viewers toward Fox Soccer Plus. Dish officials said they were unaware of the crawl, while declining to comment about whether they were in negotiations to carry Fox Soccer Plus.
AT&T U-verse said it was in the process of sending out postcards, alerting Setanta subscribers that the service would go dark on Feb. 28. Officials also declined to comment about whether they were talking to Fox about carriage.
A Cox spokesman said on Thursday that crawls had not appeared on Setanta, and that the MSO was evaluating Fox Soccer Plus.
A spokesman for DirecTV noted the top DBS provider was negotiating with Fox Soccer Plus.
Earlier this month, Fox Soccer Channel said it would reclaim top soccer rights -- Barclays Premier League and UEFA Champions League properties -- that it had been sublicensing to Setanta and that they would become part of Fox Soccer Plus.
In addition to the aforementioned affiliates, Setanta also counts Verizon FiOS and Comcast, in select markets, as affiliates.
Sources indicate that Setanta, which through the end of February will present its existing lineup, including games from the BPL, FA Cup, UEFA Champions League, Heineken Cup, Magners League and Guinness Premiership, has upward of 120,000 subscribers in the U.S.