When the switch was flicked on ESPN Deportes Wednesday at 8 p.m. (EST), viewers in a handful of markets gained access to the Spanish-language sports network.
The network -- borne out of a Sunday-night block of programming from ESPN aimed at Latinos, which debuted in 2001 -- is available to viewers in Miami; Los Angeles; San Antonio and Austin, Texas; and parts of New Mexico via deals with a number of small cable operators, according to a spokesman for the fledgling channel.
He declined to identify the operators and the number of homes in which Deportes debuted.
The spokesman noted that negotiations are continuing with major MSOs and direct-broadcast satellite providers. "We remain confident that ESPN Deportes will be in the top 25 U.S. Hispanic markets by the end of 2004, if not the top 40," he said.
The network bowed with Somos ESPN Deportes, a preview of key programming and a showcase for an array of Latino sports stars, including Eduardo Najera of the National Basketball Association’s Dallas Mavericks, Bernie Williams of Major League Baseball’s New York Yankees and veteran race-car driver Adrian Fernandez.
The network's inaugural edition of SportsCenter followed at 8:30 p.m., followed by on-site coverage in Dallas of the NBA game between the Golden State Warriors and the Mavericks at 9 p.m.
ESPN Deportes' game plan calls for coverage of more than 200 live events in its first year. In addition to the NBA, the network will present action from MLB, the National Football League, UEFA Champions League soccer, the Wimbledon Championships and French Open tennis tournaments and selected boxing events.
To mark the launch of ESPN Deportes, ESPN2 will simulcast several editions of the new Spanish-language production of SportsCenter over the next seven days.
From Jan. 8-14, the 2 a.m. EST (11 p.m. PST) 30-minute edition of ESPN Deportes SportsCenter will be televised live on ESPN2, which reaches close to 87 million homes in the United States. A special one-hour edition of ESPN Deportes SportsCenter at 11 p.m. EST (8 p.m. PST) Sunday, Jan. 11, will also be simulcast.
The ESPN2 simulcast will also feature ESPN Deportes own "Bottom line" in Spanish with the latest scores and sports news and information.
In addition to its live-event telecasts, ESPN Deportes will offer a variety of sports-news and information shows.
Anchored by SportsCenter, the roster of programs will also include Fuera de Juego, a roundtable discussion of the world of soccer; Perfiles, which offers revealing interviews with Latin American sports stars; Goles de España, a Spanish soccer analysis and highlights show; and NFL Semanal and RPM Semanal, which will offer weekly insights into the NFL and the world of auto racing.