Ian Darke, ESPN's top soccer commentator, caught a lot of people off guard Thursday morning when he announced Thursday morning that he's joining new British sports TV channel BT Sport:
At superb launch today of BT Sport who I am joining to cover Premier League and other games next season in UK.
— Ian Darke (@IanDarkeESPN) May 9, 2013
The channel, run by British Telecom, landed a package of Premier League TV rights in the United Kingdom and Ireland as part of the new round of TV rights deals that start this summer. It will also have a wide range of other sports events, including Major League Soccer.
Darke is not leaving ESPN entirely, though. ESPN confirmed to me that he'll remain the channel's lead voice for U.S. national team games, as well as this summer's Confederations Cup and next year's World Cup.
ESPN said in a statement: "We welcome his agreement with BT Sport for Premier League matches in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and we are pleased to continue to have him as the voice of our marquee soccer events in the United States."
Darke's commentary partner for ESPN's EPL broadcasts, Steve McMannaman, is also joining BT Sport. But he'll continue to work for ESPN as an analyst through the Confederations Cup and World Cup.