Viewer's Choice affiliates will have full access to
the new ESPN/Headend in the Sky digital-sports tier as part of a distribution agreement
reached last week by the parties.The tier, which is expected to launch in September, will
be available to Viewer's Choice subscribers on the HITS Galaxy 7, Transponder 6
satellite signal, the PPV network said. The tier will offer ESPN's "ESPN
GamePlan" college-football, "ESPN Full Court" college-basketball and
"ESPN Shootout" Major League Soccer PPV out-of-market packages.
The tier also has select programming from the ESPN Extra
events channel and the ESPN Now 24-hour sports-barker service.
The deal allows Viewer's Choice to offer ESPN's
out-of-market packages in their entirety to its digital affiliate base.
While the network has offered ESPN GamePlan in analog over
the years, it only offered ESPN Shootout for one year, and it has never carried ESPN Full
For analog PPV systems, Viewer's Choice will offer
ESPN GamePlangames on its Viewer's Choice 1 and Viewer's Choice 2
"Unlike carriage agreements for past college-football
and basketball seasons, this new agreement will provide the underpinnings for building
comprehensive year-round sports lineups," Viewer's Choice president and CEO
Mindy Herman said.
"And more important, it illustrates the important
commitment being made here by the three companies to work together to provide the best in
sports programming," she added.
ESPN senior vice president of affiliate sales and marketing
Sean Bratches said the deal would help its affiliates to meet the growing demand for more
"Making these PPV packages and services available
through Viewer's Choice enables cable systems to offer their customers more
attractive and compelling sports programming on a year-round basis," he added.
The September programming lineup for the ESPN Extra
PPV-event channel will offer eclectic and niche-oriented sports events. The service will
air 44 soccer matches, including 10 live broadcasts, from several international soccer
The tier's EXPN will feature extreme-sports
programming, including skateboarding, bicycling, street luge and in-line skating. Other
programming includes live Formula 3 auto racing, championship volleyball, boxing's
greatest knockouts and the annual running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain.
Prices for ESPN Extra events range from $1.99 to $9.99, the
"We have been able to utilize programming from our
purchase of the Big Fights library, as well as from ESPN International and our other
resources," ESPN vice president of distribution development Bryan Burns said in a
prepared statement. "As ESPN Extra develops, so will the quality of its programming