x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

UAE sports fans in the dark after ESPN channels go off air

ESPN has cancelled its agreement with Etisalat's e-life service, along with other operators across the Middle East.

ABU DHABI // Sports fans have been left in the dark after losing a major American television network.

ESPN has cancelled its agreement with Etisalat's e-life service, along with other operators across the Middle East.

Fans have had three channels - ESPN, ESPN Classic and ESPN America - disappear from their screens.

Etisalat confirmed on Twitter that "the channels are no longer available as per the decision of their owners".

Despite the change coming into effect at the end of last month, the channels are still listed on the e-life website.

Viewers reported that they were presented with a blank screen when trying to tune in, with no official notification given at the time.

An Etisalat spokesman has since said it is now prompting viewers with an on-screen message explaining that the channels are no longer available.

The ESPN website states: "Following the agreement with BT[British Telecom], and after further review and consultation, ESPN has decided to cease broadcasting the ESPN America channel across Europe and the Middle East (except the UK and Ireland), and ESPN Classic channels across Europe, the Middle East and Africa."

ESPN recently teamed up with BT to offer viewers in the UK a package to rival market leaders Sky Sports.

The changes for the Middle East commenced on June 30.

The company offered one alternative for fans: "Some of the content from ESPN America, such as NCAA sports and X Games, can be watched online via ESPN's streaming service, ESPN Player - www.espnplayer.com."

In another television sport shake-up, Abu Dhabi Media has lost out on the rights to screen English Premier League games from this season coming until the end of the 2015/16 campaign to Al Jazeera Sport.

ksinclair@thenational.ae