New York -- ESPN is nearing the completion of an amendment to its rights contract with the NCAA, covering 21 championships, which will enable its freshman collegiate service, ESPNU, to telecast much of the action leading up to those title games and events.
ESPNU vice president and general manager Burke Magnus expects the NCAA contract to be completed shortly.
“Viewers will get to see more championship wrestling action, more lacrosse, more women’s volleyball,” he said, adding that ESPNU would also air more Division 1 AA and Division II football-playoff action.
This Sunday, ESPNU will provide six hours of college-basketball tournament-selection coverage and analysis.
The network -- which bowed March 4 in 3 million homes via distribution pacts with DirecTV Inc. and Adelphia Communications Corp. -- will house its men’s and women’s tourney information and highlights program March 13 as part of The U: Selection Sunday Special, airing from its home in Charlotte, N.C.
Magnus said The U would become the network’s signature studio show -- one that would not only run on a daily basis, but the name of which will become incorporated into other programming specials.
Magnus, speaking Wednesday at the World Congress of Sports at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel here, also noted that ESPNU has inked its first deal to cover spring football practice, as the network will follow the gridiron preparation from the University of Louisville.
On the distribution front, he added, “Another decent-sized announcement” with a cable operator could be made within the next 15-30 days, followed by “one or two more.” And he said ESPNU is talking with EchoStar Communications Corp.’s Dish Network about a carriage deal.