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Setanta to launch service on Freeview

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Setanta Sports, the Irish sports broadcaster, is preparing to launch a free-to-air general sports channel on Freeview.

The new channel, which will broadcast a combination of live sport, documentaries and archive footage, is expected to go live toward the end of the year on the digital terrestrial platform, which currently has Sky Sports News as its only dedicated sports channel.

Setanta has bought the space on Freeview from SDN, a joint venture between the Welsh broadcaster S4C, United Business Media and NTL.

However, the launch of the new free-to-air channel, which a source at Setanta said would in no way compete with Sky Sports News’ offering, raises a question mark over the status of the sports rights the broadcaster holds.

Setanta provides football and rugby coverage to Ireland and to Irish, English and Scottish ex-patriates living in Britain, Europe and North America and already runs the pay-per-view sports channels Setanta Sports 1 and 2 on Sky Digital.

It has the North American rights to a number of tournaments including the Heineken Cup, the English FA Cup and the Champion’s League, and the exclusive pay-per-view rights to the Scottish Premier League in the UK and Ireland.

The broadcaster is understood to be in negotiations to extend some of these rights to free-to-air and, until then, is unable to specify what the channel’s schedule will be.

The channel will be a new launch for Setanta Sports and its first free-to-air channel.

Freeview, which launched in October, has so far proved a commercial success. The DTT service currently has an estimated 1.4 million viewers, which are a combination of new customers and ex-ITV Digital customers using their old settop boxes.