ESPN may shut off TV channel after chief exits

THE HEAD of ESPN’s European TV operations has quit the broadcaster, in a move that may pave the way for the company to shut down its UK sports channels from next summer.

Jeroen Oerlemans, ESPN’s vice president in charge of TV in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, has recently stepped down without a successor being appointed, City A.M. has learned.

ESPN, which is owned by Disney, has also seen its rights to the Italian Serie A football league, the American MLS, and France’s Ligue 1 poached by BT as the telecoms giant gears up to launch its own sports channel next year.

BT recently outbid ESPN for the rights to Premier League football games and Rugby’s Aviva Premiership from next season, and poached top producer Stephen Cook.

“They don’t have much to offer now,” an industry source said.

When asked if ESPN UK would still be broadcasting next year, a spokesman said: “We are actively exploring a range of potential options for our business, but we do not discuss private business strategy publicly.” Oerlemans, who helped launch ESPN UK in 2009, said he was stepping down for personal reasons.