Setanta scores big with deals in China and Canada

24 Nov 2003

Irish software and content firm Setanta Media has signed up four customers in Canada and China to its mobile sports content system.

Two of the largest mobile networks in Canada – Bell Canada, with 9 million subscribers and Telus with 8 million – have agreed to carry Setanta’s sporting content. The subscribers of both networks will be able to receive European sporting coverage on their mobiles before Christmas. Setanta has also secured a third customer, the Vancouver Canucks, a top professional ice hockey team, whose supporters will be able to book tickets and receive ticket alerts via SMS and access club news via WAP.

In China, Setanta Media has won a contract with Yangtze Telecom Corporation, an aggregator of content such as SMS and voice information services to major Chinese telcos. Under this agreement, Yangtze will add coverage of European sports and possibly NBA basketball to the range of SMS services offered to the subscriber base of China Unicom and China Mobile. These services are currently available in two provinces where the networks have 7.5m subscribers between them but Yangtze expects to extend its services to three more provinces by the end of this year and to a total of 11 by the end of 2004.

Setanta Media’s managing director Frank Cronin was hugely excited about the scale of the Chinese market and the opportunity it presented. “These two operators have 180 million subscribers between them and are adding two million subscribers a month. It’s just incredible. And apparently they’re big data users so it’s going to be very interesting.” Cronin also revealed that Setanta Media is in discussions with a number of sports franchises, including the US Major League Baseball (MLB) corporation, for the rights to distribute mobile content in Japan, another market for which he has high hopes.

Referring to the Bell and Telus deals in Canada, Cronin said he would be pleased if 20,000 customers sign up to the sports service and “absolutely thrilled” if this number was 50,000 or more. While Canadian operators offer some local sports services to their customers, the Setanta link-up represents the first time that international sports coverage will be available and also the first time that advanced technology such as picture messaging will be used to deliver up-to-the-minute sports results and information.

As Setanta has negotiated a revenue-sharing agreement with its Canadian clients, the eventual value of the contracts will largely depend on how popular its services become but Cronin was confident that the three deals would yield combined revenues running into seven figures.

Established four years ago, Setanta Media has launched its international expansion from a solid foundation in Europe. From its head office just off Dublin’s George’s Quay, the company provides the sporting content to Vodafone Ireland and has deals in the UK and Europe based on sport, principally soccer and Formula 1. Setanta also does the online ticketing for the GAA and provides content for its website. The company has an annual turnover of almost €3m and employs 25 people.

Setanta Media is part of Setanta sport, the well-known sports broadcaster which gives ex-pat communities access to major sporting events such as GAA matches, Rugby World Cup games, Premiership football and soccer internationals through a network of bars and clubs. The company also recently won the rights to broadcast 15 Premiership soccer games live in Ireland next season.

By Brian Skelly