Setanta Sports was a relatively small sports channel - known for showing SPL matches and in the case of Freeview, taking up valuable space on Sundays from the now defunct ITV News Channel and CITV.
In 2006, it pulled off a spectacular feat - taking up two of the Premier League rights from Sky. It then began to expand with the FA Cup, PGA Tour and IPL, among other sporting rights throughout the next three years. However in 2009, Setanta UK collapsed with multiple unpaid debts to sport rights.
Why did they fail? I can point to the fact that their expansion was too quick across the wall, and the private equity firms funding Setanta refused to honour these contracts.
To be honest, it wasn't perhaps a big surprise that they won the rights to the Premier League in that auction. It had already been said that they were no longer able to sell them all to one broadcaster, but the packages were too big for any terrestrial broadcaster to go for them. Setanta were probably the only other place they could have gone.
I reckon the moment when it all went wrong for them was when they bought the rights to Premiership Rugby - it was simply buying stuff for the sake of it, because although it gave them first choice domestic rugby, Sky still had loads of rugby so you didn't miss much by not having it. It was a waste of money, really. And it didn't help that Setanta didn't have first choice rights in any of its football contracts, sharing the Premier League with Sky and the FA Cup and England with ITV. The only bit of exclusive premium content it had was the away England matches, and that backfired on them when they didn't offer highlights and got lots of bad publicity out of it, not helped by their customer service never quite being up to scratch.
I had Setanta for the two years it had the Premier League via Virgin, though I can't really remember much about it, to be honest, it was a channel I generally tolerated (because of the football it showed) rather than especially loved. Of the three rivals to Sky, Setanta was the one that most obviously aped the Sky formula, although that was probably to its detriment because it just meant it always looked like an inferior version of Sky. ESPN and BT have both been more distinctive and so appeared more of an alternative. ESPN also had much lower overheads, contracting out virtually everything (and of course they haggled for ages over the FA Cup rights, it took a year to agree the contract, emphasising how they'd rather have no sport rather than pay over the odds), while BT have much more stable foundations and have spent money on proper exclusive content rather than Sky's off-cuts.
The one thing that used to totally infuriate me about Setanta was they used to unencrypt their football build-up in an attempt to whip up more subscribers and would on numerous occasions invite you to subscribe, to the extent of for a while having a "SUBSCRIBE" DOG
constantly on screen during the build-up. And if you'd already subscribed, it was incredibly irritating. Just looked like bad manners.