Setanta set to broadcast top-class sport on new Asia station
THE founders of Setanta Sports are striking out for international growth once more, securing swathes of Asian rights so they can launch a new TV station there "towards the end of the year".
The Asian play comes less than a year after Setanta's UK business dramatically imploded, triggering more than 200 job losses and leaving debts of close to £300m in its wake.
"We do our best to be forward looking rather than backward looking," Setanta's Mark O'Meara said yesterday as he and founders Leonard Ryan and Mickey O'Rourke detailed their new international front.
Setanta Asia, a venture owned by Mr O'Meara, Mr Ryan and Mr O'Rourke, has already secured rights for high-profile rugby tournaments including the Six Nations, Tri Nations, Lions and Super 14 as well as the Guinness Premiership and GAA. A broadband version of the service was launched at the Six Nation's kick off on February 6 and the trio plan to launch on cable and satellite "towards the end of the year", with Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore the most likely initial markets.
"It's going to be slightly different to our traditional model, because we intend to make the station available as a basic digital channel, so it would be available to all subscribers on cable and satellite rather than as a premium channel," said Mr O'Rourke.
Mr Ryan added that the "basic" package business model was "easier to execute" because there was "less risk attached to it". "It may not generate the huge profits that something like Sky Sports could generate as a stand-alone sports offering, but it creates a very very sustainable long-term business," he stressed.
The trio declined to reveal the level of investment in Setanta Asia, but Mr O'Meara said the figure was "not huge". "It will start to generate a fair bit of revenue from launch, and its costs are relatively low," he added.
Setanta successfully rolled out the basic model with US sports channel NASN, and Mr Ryan said the sports broadcaster would "look at other territories (beyond Asia) and see where the model will work". "We'll be trying to create economies of scale by having several niche businesses in markets where we can be strong," Mr O'Rourke added.
Setanta already has operations in Australia -- where the Asian venture will be run from -- as well as Canada and Africa. Mr Ryan said the Asian market was a "very big" with limited competition in the markets Setanta is targeting. The Irish broadcaster has no plans to enter the "very competitive" Middle East market "unless we find oil in Kerry", O'Rourke added.
Since the UK business collapsed, the trio also unveiled plans to launch an online betting venture and have offloaded the broadcaster's US channel.
Together with MCD boss Denis Desmond they are also continuing to develop the Setanta Ireland business and hope to grow the headcount there over the year.