The next league up for auction in ESPN’s profolio of possible acquisitions, is the English Premier League. It was once considered a bit of a long shot for ESPN to get the rights to the Soccer league, but with the economy driving down the price of bids, the EPL is almost hoping for a large offer from ESPN to take over the rights. Via the UK Telegraph….

Other sectors of the economy may be creaking in the gale blowing from the financial markets, but ask a club executive what the implications are for football and the answer invariably begins: “It would be naïve for anyone to claim they are immune from the effects of the recession, but…”

On Monday the Premier League distributed the Invitations To Tender for their next round of domestic television rights to run from 2010-2013, formally starting a process that many observers believe is the most important negotiation in the competition’s 16-year history.

The dark horse in the field, and the primary reason for Premier League confidence that current revenues will be matched, are ESPN. A major player in US sports rights, the Disney-owned company have been circling European football rights for some time, and in September Disney president Dick Iger indicated they would bid for live Premier League.

It remains to be seen how serious their interest is. They could choose to target Setanta, a move that would test the faith of the Irish-owned firm’s City backers. Alternatively they could mount a full tilt at Sky, though given the close relationship between ESPN and NewsCorp, Sky’s parent company – they are partners in Asia in ESPN Star Sport – that may be less likely.

It’s not likely that two channels, who are largely based around the EPL, are going to go without a fight. But as ESPN proved in the BCS bidding…..if you throw enough cash at something, there might not be a way for your opponents to compete. We’ll see how things pan out in 2009.

Premier League welcome ESPN interest in TV rights (UK Telegraph)