By Hamish Mackay
Pay-per-view sports channel Setanta has clinched a new four-year deal to cover the Scottish Premier League in a £54.5m package.
Setanta had two years of its original agreement still to run but now has taken its total investment to £71m and will screen 60 live soccer matches each season until 2010.
Lex Gold, chairman of the SPL, said: "It’s an enhancement of £20m over a four-year period on the previous deal. It¹s difficult to find a downside. In fact, it’s the best deal in the history of Scottish football."
Trevor East, Setanta’s director of sport, said: "Extending our coverage to include more teams more often is an important part of our development strategy. The Dublin-based subscription-only broadcaster paid £33m for its initial four-year agreement with the SPL which is believed to have hit the break-even subscriber tally of 100,000 after the first two years.
An annual subscription to the Setanta Sports package which also includes Setanta Sports 2, North American Sports Network, Setanta Ireland, Celtic TV, Rangers TV and Racing World, currently costs £140. It is likely to be increased as a result of the new SPL contract.
Setanta is 40 per cent owned by venture capital firm Benchmark Capital and is expanding aggressively as a provider of premium sports content.
Ynon Kreiz, a partner at Benchmark, said: "Setanta is a pay-TV content provider and will distribute wherever it can. We are looking to leverage Sky and cable’s platforms, in a positive sense. It will grow our business," he said.