Blow to founders of troubled pay-TV company Setanta as they seek to avert administration

ESPN, the US sports network owned by media giant Disney, has ruled out a bid for troubled Irish pay-TV company Setanta.

The news is a blow for Setanta, which is still trying to negotiate a last-minute rescue deal to stave off administration.

"We currently have no plans to buy Setanta. There are a lot of stories out there linking us with a possible purchase and we wanted to set the record straight."

ESPN may still be interested in acquiring these rights should Setanta go under. If that happens, they will revert to the Premier League before being auctioned off again.

The US broadcaster could also bid for the rights to 46 live games owned by Setanta as part of its current three-year contract with the Premier League, which has one more year to run. If Setanta folds, those rights will also revert to the Premier League and be resold.

However, ESPN would probably face competition from BSkyB for those rights if it did decide to bid. Sky is barred from owning all six Premier League live TV rights packages – each of which consists of 23 games – under EU competition rules.