With EPL Assist, ESPN Kicks Off New U.K. Channel Aug. 3

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ESPN will put a new foot forth with its futbol coverage in the U.K.

The sports programmer plans to convert its ESPN America service Aug. 3 to accommodate the Barclays English Premier League matches it picked up from Setanta Sports, which couldn't make its rights payments and went into receivership.

The new ESPN channel will proffer the 46 EPL matches during the 2009-10 season, as well as the international sports and an array of U.S.-oriented sports that previously aired on ESPN America. The service will be available in both standard- and high-definition formats, making it the company's first HD channel in Europe.

As part of the new arrangement, Sky will retail ESPN to its commercial customers, as well as its residential subscribers on a premium basis. Sky will make ESPN available on a premium subscription basis to all Sky homes, meaning all EPL matches will be available in HD to Sky homes. ESPN will appear in the Sky Guide at channel number 417 in SD and channel 443 in HD. Sky Sports subscribers will be able to purchase ESPN for £9 per month, while other Sky customers will be able to subscribe from £12 per month.

ESPN Classic (Sky Guide 442), which showcases the greatest moments in sport, will remain within the ‘News and Events' pack. For Sky's commercial customers, all ESPN channels will be included within Sky's ‘Ultimate' channel pack. ESPN HD will be available at no extra cost to those who subscribe to ESPN and have Sky's HD Pack.

ESPN has retained Sky Sports' in-house production team to produce its EPL matches, which will feature dedicated ESPN graphics and analysis. ESPN plan to create original studio shows to support their EPL matches and other sports coverage.
Further, Sky Media, Sky's ad sales house, will sell advertising inventory for both ESPN and ESPN Classic.
"We hope football and sports fans will enjoy ESPN's compelling mix of Barclays Premier League football, international sports and the best of the US sports in both SD and HD," said Lynne Frank, managing director, ESPN for Europe, Middle East and Africa, in a statement. "We look forward to working with Sky to deliver great sports content to their subscribers and will continue our discussions with all other pay-TV providers so that we can bring ESPN to as many sports fans in the UK as possible."
Noted Sky COO Mike Darcey: "Our agreement with ESPN to retail its portfolio of sports channels ensures that we have certainty of distribution of all live Premier League matches to Sky homes, and further adds to the high-quality sports content our customers can enjoy, both in standard- and high-definition. We are also delighted to provide support in the form of production, advertising sales and commercial retailing."