U.S. News

ITV and Setanta Win FA Cup and England Soccer Rights


Broadcasters ITV and Setanta have won the rights to show live FA Cup and England international matches in a deal worth 425 million pounds ($832million), beating current holders the BBC and BSkyB.

The Football Association (FA) announced the four-year dealon Friday in the first big contract to be signed under ITV's new executive chairman, Michael Grade, himself a keen soccer fan.

Under the terms of the deal, ITV 1 will broadcast live coverage of 16 FA Cup games per season, one semi-final, the final and highlights.

It will also show 18 England international games including all home qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012. Ireland's Setanta will have the rights to some England home friendlies, FA Cup games, England Under 21 matches and FA Youth games.

The deal will run from August 2008 to July 2012.

It is a huge boost to ITV which struggled in 2006, losing viewers and advertisers due to a spate of poor programming.

The agreement will also further establish Irish-based Setanta, a pay-TV broadcaster, as a leading sports provider. The group already owns the rights to show a third of Premier League matches from next season, golf and Scottish Premier League matches.

"ITV is pleased to be returning both the FA cup and England games to our viewers and advertisers," Grade, who left the BBC to join ITV, said in a statement. "Our position is now substantially enhanced as the leading terrestrial free-to-air sports broadcaster."

Analysts at UBS said the deal showed that BSkyB, which has used soccer rights to attract customers in the past, could be losing its tight grip on the market.