ESPN To Launch Boston-Based Local Online Channel

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Beantown will be the next stop for ESPN's fast expanding local sports online business as the all-sports network Friday announced the Sept. 14 launch of the local sports site.

ESPN president George Bodenheimer says the network will look for other opportunities to launch local sports sites and isn't ruling out the potential of taking its local sports aspirations one step further and striking out into the regional sports arena.

During an ESPN media workshop luncheon at the network's  headquarters here Thursday, Bodenheimer said that the 24-hour sports network "has not ruled out" the possibility of launching regional sports networks to rival those of Cox Cable, Comcast Cable and Fox Sports, but would not reveal specific details.

As for the local sports Web sites, ESPNBoston.com will serve as ESPN's home for New England sports, featuring online news and information, video and original and customized content integrated from ESPN's multiple platforms.

Former Boston Globe NFL writer Mike Reiss will be one of several New England area sports personalities affiliated with the service, offering coverage of local pro sports teams such as the New England Patriots, Boston Celtics, Boston Red Sox, Boston Bruins and New England Revolution.

The site will also grow to provide small college and regional high school coverage.

ESPNBoston.com joins a similar local network Web site in Chicago. ESPN has already announced plans to launch like properties in Dallas, Los Angeles and New York over the next 10 months.

"Adding Boston to ESPN's local sites network is a natural fit for our goal of serving sports fans," said Jim Pastor, senior vice president, ESPN Business Divisions in a statement. "It is one of the nation's premier sports towns and home to one of the strongest and most passionate fan bases in the world. We're looking forward to launching ESPNBoston.com as a leading source of New England sports news and information."

During the luncheon, Bodenheimer also said he's not concerned about pro leagues like the NFL and MLB disrupting their league live game rights deals with the network in the near future in an effort to build up the value of their respective cable channels NFL Network and MLB Network.

"We pay significant fees to the leagues," he said. "I would be surprised if the leagues do something to upset that."

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