ESPN, the US cable sports network, is planning an international expansion, saying it is “absolutely interested” in acquiring UK rights to the English Premier League when they are next auctioned in 2009.
A bid would pit the Disney owned sports network against Sky which last year agreed a three-year deal worth £1.3 billion (E1.88bn) for the largest package of games. George Bodenheimer, president of ESPN, which broadcasts the NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball in the US, told the FT that the Premier League was a “fabulous property, we are absolutely interested in it”.
ESPN is to rebrand its presence in Europe renaming the current North American Sports Network, which is in 10m European homes, to ESPN. In the UK, NASN is packaged with Setanta's channels and is available in 1m homes.
ESPN has increased its coverage of non-US sports and recently bought Cricinfo, the world's largest cricket website, which attracts millions of fans from India and Pakistan. It also acquired Scrum.com, the largest rugby site on the web.
ESPN owns the rights to show the Premier League in the US and also broadcasts coverage of Major League Soccer, the domestic US league.
Meantime, ESPN Star sports has launched STAR Sports Mobile, its new mobile sports content service highlighted by exclusive Arsenal and Liverpool Football Club content along with many more innovative features.