In a move that better positions cable to compete for
out-of-market sports package rights, Tele-Communications Inc's Headend In the Sky
will create a sports pay-per-view pod that will be anchored by ESPN's college sports
The service, located on Galaxy 7, Transponder 6, will offer
eight channels that will carry most of ESPN's out-of-market games from its GamePlan
college football, Full Court college basketball and MLS/ESPN Shootout soccer packages,
said Skip Dejardin, director of sales and marketing for ESPN Enterprises. Similar to
analog PPV, the out-of-market games will be sold on an individual and package basis.
HITS claims 1.5 million subscribers.
"It gives us the ability to deliver to cable operators
product that they've been asking for," said Desjardin. "They wanted better
access to the games, so HITS gives them an easy, convenient and simple way to get the
packages and deliver them to systems."
Along with the packages, ESPN will program a PPV channel
that will offer live international sports events as well as archival games and events.
Desjardin said the channel could feature programming such as the best of the X Games. It
could also show classic games from longstanding college football rivalries such as
Michigan and Ohio State the night before the two teams meet on GamePlan.
Also on the pod will be a sports barker channel, which will
feature full-motion video promotional spots for ESPN PPV programming, Desjardin said. The
barker will also offer news updates from ESPN's Internet service, ESPN.com as well as
the GO Network.
The services will also allow cable to showcase to the
professional leagues its ability to offer out-of-market sports packages. Desjardin said
the sports PPV pod is not exclusive to ESPN, and any other distributor could come in and
But thus far, the four pro sports leagues have shut out
cable from acquiring the rights to potentially lucrative and attractive multi-game
packages, and instead offered such rights to rival direct-broadcast satellite services.
The leagues often complain that most cable operators lack
the channel space to offer as many as four or five games at a time.
"It's certainly a step forward for the industry
to show the leagues that they can handle season-long packages," Desjardin said.
Representatives from the four sports leagues could not be
reached for comment at press time.