FOOTBALL: ITV and ESPN awarded UEFA Europa League rights

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  • ITV to air 1st and 2nd pick matches, and exclusive coverage of the final
  • ESPN to screen at least two live games per matchday
  • Channel 5 loses flagship football contract

ITV and ESPN have secured the rights to continue screening the UEFA Europa League in a new three-year deal.

The UK’s biggest commercial free-to-air network will take over from Channel 5 as the lead UK broadcaster of the competition from next season.

First and second pick matches will air on ITV, with subscription broadcaster ESPN picking up the rights to the remainder of the matches.

The majority of ITV’s live games will be shown on digital channel ITV4, with matches featuring British teams from the quarter final stages onwards to be screened on ITV1.

ITV will also screen live and exclusive coverage of the final throughout the duration of the contract.

ESPN remains the exclusive UK pay television partner of the competition, and will show at least two live matches on Europa League Thursdays. Further coverage details will be announced at a later date.

Both broadcasters will screen a dedicated highlights package every matchday.

The new agreement cements ITV’s long running and successful partnership with UEFA, with the network securing live UEFA Champions League football until 2015 earlier this year.

Europa League football has consistently attracted strong ratings for ITV4 with August’s play-off tie between Hearts and Tottenham Hotspur peaking with 1.9 million viewers.

ITV previously screened exclusive coverage of the UEFA Cup final between 2005 and 2009.

Niall Sloane, ITV Controller of Sport said: “There is great demand from UK viewers to watch domestic teams performing on the European stage and I’m delighted that ITV is extending its long and successful relationship with UEFA to broadcast the top pick games from throughout the competition.”

Ross Hair, Managing Director, ESPN – Europe, Middle East and Africa, said: “The UEFA Europa League is one of the top football competitions in the world and a popular part of ESPN’s schedule.”

“We’re delighted to not only renew our association with the competition in the UK, but to expand the number of games we will be able to bring fans, expand our football line-up and augment the growing range of sports we broadcast in the UK.”

Losing out: Channel 5 football analyst Pat Nevin

UEFA’s new deal marks the end of Channel 5’s association with the competition for now. The broadcaster currently airs first-pick games and the final exclusively, following a deal struck in 2008.

The loss of Europa League football, its principal sports contract, is a huge blow to the broadcaster.

European football has been one of the channel’s biggest ratings draws throughout its existance, often attracting more than 2m viewers for matches involving British clubs.

Coverage of Fulham’s Europa League final defeat last year, which peaked at 6.1m viewers, helped the network to its best weekday audience share for more than seven years.

A statement from UEFA thanked Channel 5 for its ‘continued and valued commitment to the competition’.

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