Place your bets on Setanta this season

With the Olympics upon us, much focus is on the 'blue riband' event - the men's 100 metres, which this year sees three genuine title hopes fighting it out for a prestigious gold medal.

Setanta news room: exclusive news agenda
Setanta news room: exclusive news agenda

But while world record holder Usain Bolt, his Jamaican colleague Asafa Powell and man-in-form Tyson Gay battle it out on the track, three dedicated UK sports news channels will by vying for the lion's share of the TV audience cheering them on.

Sky Sports News has the might of the Murdoch empire behind it and is well known for football coverage. Eurosport News is a more established channel, best known for cycling and tennis.

But now there is also Setanta Sports News, which, like Powell, performs in a gold strip and is slightly less fancied than its rivals.

The news channel forms part of Setanta's burgeoning sports empire, which made headlines in 2006 for winning part of the Premiership Football contract, allowing it to screen matches.

Partly to compete with Sky and also to take a spot as Virgin Media's free rival to Sky Sports News, Setanta Sports News emerged last November, produced by ITN and housed within ITV's Grays Inn Road London base. It offers up-to-date and often exclusive news, but even the most ardent fan would admit the channel still has some way to go.

Setanta Sports News may look and feel like Sky Sports News - just like its rival you can see staff working in the background - but a number of major sports PR agencies are yet to use it for coverage.

‘We have done minor bits and bobs, but there are other options available with more viewers to which we would always go first,' says one senior sports PR professional.

Nevertheless, Setanta does offer opportunities. Its audience tends to be more passionate about sport, as indicated by the constant stream of viewers' messages on screen. And as viewing figures are still
rising, it would be wise to get to know the staff well early on.

‘It offers a great opportunity to secure positive coverage for clients in the daily news agenda,' says Pitch PR senior account executive Simon May. ‘Whether a general news story, athlete profiles, sponsorship announcements or experiential features, the team is willing to talk through all possibilities in order to deliver a hard-edged, yet unbiased, news story.'

Positive stuff. But with Setanta still a poor, yet upwardly mobile, relation to Sky, is it ever worth going there first?

‘It is often more pertinent to go to Setanta over Sky, as we know we can provide it with a newsworthy exclusive to tie in with its agenda,' says May.

And as one PR professional says: ‘It's not Sky, but it's got to be worth a punt.'

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