DirecTV To Kick Off GolTV HD In August 

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DirecTV will be onsides when GolTV launches its high-definition service in August.
The soccer-centric programmer is bowing a full simulcast version of its futbol network, which during its rookie season will present over 250 matches, plus news and magazine programming in the enhanced format. DirecTV will make GolTV HD -- the first HD service in the U.S. to be offered simultaneously in Spanish and English -- available to all of its high-definition customers. Deal terms were not disclosed.
GolTV COO Rodrigo Lombello is pleased that the No. 1 DBS provider will add GolTV HD to a roster that will soon feature some 160 HD channels.
"This is an important step," he said. "As our first affiliate to commit to offer GolTV HD, DirecTV is adding compelling program that speaks to the fast-growing American soccer fans and to all Hispanic households."
Lombello said the programmer is negotiating with all of its affiliates about rolling out the HD service and is confident more will be on board at launch
"Soccer is a completely different experience in HD; you can see much more of the pitch," he said. "There has been a great reception to GolTV HD. Distributors understand the value as an acquisition and retention tool."
Presently counting some 13 million subscribers, GolTV is positioned as part of Spanish-language and sports packages, and in some markets is available on expanded basic. Lombello, who notes that English-language viewers represent about 70% of GolTV's subscriber base, believes GolTV HD could help fill in the few remaining gaps in the programmer's Hispanic coverage areas.
Presented in 1080i HD and Dolby AC3 sound, GolTV will showcase live and primetime matches from La Liga and Bundesliga, Spain and Germany's top futbol circuits, as well as the UEFA Europa League and Brazil's Campeonato Paulista and Brasileirão, among others. Moreover, highlight and magazine shows like La Liga 360, HalloBundesliga and Bundesliga Magazine and GolTV News, the weeknight show 100% dedicated to soccer news, will also be presented in high-definition.
The HD bow follows on the boots of GolTV Movil subscription service, which debuted with Latin mobile media company LatCel in March. GolTV Móvil currently offers Spanish-language text message alerts, as well as a mobile portal that is home to photos and other content. The service will add video highlights and other programming clips within the next six weeks, according to Lombello.
The executive notes that GolTV is in discussions with multiple carriers for a similar version of an English-language mobile package, and also would like to develop apps for iTunes and Blackberry services.
Relative to streaming matches, GolTV has sublicensed some rights to ESPN and TV Max. However, Rodrigo said GolTV is interested in established a broader "TV Everywhere" relationship. "We want to do that with our affiliates," he said.
Meanwhile, GolTV kicked off its seven-installment international reality competition series Soccer Aces on April 27. The program follows 17 amateur players, including one from the U.S., in soccer-related workouts during a training camp in Madrid. The winner earns a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play during the preseason with La Liga club Atletico Madrid.
While attending the Soccer Aces training academy, the finalists are trained by leading soccer coaches and live under the public eye with video cameras capturing their every cut and move. The contestants are judged by Gol TV founder and CEO Enzo Francescoli, the former Uruguayan midfielder nicknamed "The Prince" and one of FIFA's 100 best soccer players of all time, and fellow soccer legend Zinedine Zidane. The Frenchmen idolized Francescoli growing up and named his soccer-playing son Enzo, after Francescoli
"I have a great relationship with Zinedine and this has been a very positive experience for both of us personally," said Francescoli. "Soccer Aces is giving some younger players a chance to pursue their dreams."
The program also is airing in 20 other nations in Europe, Asia and South America, and users can also follow the developments online at http://www.socceracestv.com/
GolTV and Francescoli are eyeing additional iterations of the show.
"There has been interest in the U.S. and an offer from Italy. There is a lot of interest in finding the 'next' player," said Francescoli. He notes that GolTV is open to pursuing a similar show for women, but it would require the presence of an ex-major star from the distaff side of the pitch.
As for the 2010 FIFA World Cup from South Africa, Francescoli believes that Uruguay will emerge from Group A.
"Uruguay is in very good condition to advance from group stage, but it mostly depends on who they will encounter in the knock-out stages [round of 16 and later contests]," he said.
He was less definitive, but was leaning toward the Euro 2008 winners to hoist the trophy.
"I believe that there will be many surprises this World Cup. Among my South American favorites are Brazil and Argentina. And from Europe, I like Spain, England and Germany," he said. "I feel that Germany plays very well in World Cup, but I think that if the conditions were right, Spain could take home the Cup."

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