As the old adage goes, to never meet your heroes, so it transpires as ESPN sit astride their proverbial horse and ride into the British sporting sunset. They arrived as great American conquerors who would finally give Rupert Murdoch's monopoly a bloody nose and more. As it is, they have conceded to their great rivals and stepped aside for a younger challenger.
That BT Sport has hoovered-up the UK business of the Disney-owned giant is a clear sign of the ambition the (increasingly former) telecoms giant has to take on Sky at its own game. The writing on the wall was emphatic the moment ESPN were defeated by BT in the latest round of bidding for live coverage of the Barclays Premier League. Without the ongoing coverage of the national sport, the Americans were facing end-game. Rights for other sports followed including rugby and american football (the most bizarre loss of all, losing the rights to broadcast the Monday Night Football show they produce and present in the States, to the Beeb).
When ESPN UK arrived in 2009, the hope was that they'd revolutionise coverage of sport in this country - to be an alternative voice to that offered by Sky Sports. In this regard, they had moderate success introducing presentational flourishes (dressing-room cams, match ball presentations and pitchside commentary) borrowed from their vast playbook back home. Yet the mixture of syndicated coverage coupled with a who's who of also-ran pundits somewhat damaged the broader credibility of their ambition. They aimed high and deserve huge credit for coming at the time when the very fabric of live, multi-channel sport was under-threat following the collapse of Setanta.
ESPN still, on a very global scale, remains 'the worldwide leader' in sport and subscriber chat on social media today was dominated by what will happen to the true success story of their move into the British market: ESPN America. One hopes that the new firepower of a combined BT entity will lead to the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL all having an authentic, one-stop home.
The deal announcement also brings a sad end to the renowned ESPN Classic, which has brought hundreds of hours of nostalgic entertainment. One would assume the likes of YouTube, Netflix and Apple will move into this territory in time.
As for the newly emboldened BT Sport enterprise, battle lines have well and truly been drawn. From this summer it will be just them and Sky competing for viewers and subscribers. All the noise, from the acquisition of talent through to the speculated body of programming, suggests they are not planning to be the junior partners to their near twenty-five year old rival. Today's moves are the first tentative steps toward 2015, when for the first time since the early nineties Sky could face the possibility of losing their sporting crown jewel - Premier League football.
For punters and subscribers, thoughts turn to prices and packages. For administrators and owners, lips are licked for future negotiations.
Of course, we've been here before.Suggest a correction