UPDATE: ESPN responds: ''Not a definite that ESPN Classic is leaving, ESPN "not affected".
2ND UPDATE Tuesday 25 Feb 22:40: ESPN explains what exactly is happening with each of its ESPN channels as seen in South Africa and their possible futures.
The apparent loss of the channels follow a deal in which Disney, which owns ESPN, sold ESPN in the United Kingdom to BT in a transaction set to be concluded by the end of July.
That deal excludes ESPN Classic which will likely be killed off by ESPN across Africa as a TV channel, and at the same time the main ESPN will no longer be made available outside of America in international markets except for in Britain. [UPDATE: A day later ESPN says that as it pertains for specifically Africa, this is not necessarily what will be happening.]
Disney no longer saw value in ESPN Classic and didn't regard the channel as a core focus of value outside of America. While ESPN America remain valuable, that channel won't be distributed anymore in Europe, Africa and the Middle East (only a version of it and only in the United Kingdom).
While the BT Group which will continue to operate one ESPN-branded channel with NASCAR, NCAA college football, and NCAA college basketball, that is only for the United Kingdom. ESPN will stop distributing its ESPN America TV channel in international markets.
I sought clarity on the matter but an ESPN spokesperson did not respond to my media enquiry today asking for confirmation and what is happening to ESPN and ESPN Classic in South Africa and Africa on MultiChoice.
In May last year I reported that the Disney-owned ESPN is considering exiting a number of international TV markets as a result of the growing cost of acquiring live sports rights. Then ESPN also didn't respond when I asked what this means for Africa and South Africa.
The Disney-owned ESPN said in May that it was considering exiting a number of international TV markets as a result of the growing costs of acquiring live sporting rights. In May 2012 it was the Disney Company's chairman and chief executive officer, Bob Iger himself who told investors "that the opportunities for ESPN are limited internationally."
"ESPN's international business has never been particularly large, nor has it been a huge priority for the company," Bob Iger said.
That was shockingly harsh and unexpected words - words that signalled (what has now happened) which is that Disney and ESPN doesn't really care that much for ESPN as a channel or channels outside of America.
"We could not be more proud of the TV channel built and nurtured by our talented team over the past four years," said Ross Hair, the managing director of ESPN for the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region in a statement. "The value of that hard work is reflected in this deal with BT and the continuation of ESPN on television screens across the UK and Ireland."