Monday, February 27, 2006

ESPN enters British Market

After a year of rumour, today Disney confirmed that they will launch the ESPN Classic channel in the United Kingdom on the Sky platform from March 13th at 7PM. It is expected that they will use the channel to gain a foothold in the British marketplace and decide whether their is demand to launch a channel in the UK solely for the purpose of North American Sports.

Currently fans of North American Sports in the UK have several options, the NFL is shown on Sky Sports with a double-header each Sunday as well as Thanksgiving games and extra Christmas games and all playoff games. Terrestrial network own regular season rights and show Sunday and Monday Night Football. Fellow terrestrial network itv show the Superbowl.

Major League Baseball has been shown on is the guise of the nationally televised ESPN game on Sunday nights and ESPN2's game on Wednesday night for many years but last season the Wednesday night games moved to sky's channel 425. The extra subscription channel NASN has shown 250+ games from MLB including the Division Series and Championship Series live for the past few years but the World Series has been exclusive to for British fans. However NASN have yet to confirm their plans for the 2006 season although they are 'optimistic' to bring back baseball with the same amount of games.

NHL and NBA both have homes on NASN and with Sky Sports also owning a handful of rights to live NBA games.

With ESPN holding rights at some level of all live sports in the US, they have made a fair few quid selling the UK rights for these events but now they'll start assessing whether there is room to launch their own network in the UK.

The only deal signed already for any of these sports past 2006 are the satellite rights to the National Football League which Sky Sports hold.

Interesting times for UK fans of North American Sports...

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