SBJ/September 11 - 17, 2006/This Weeks News

ESPN puts Champions League tournament on the Web

Matches will run $9.95 on
ESPNSoccernet.com and ESPNdeportes.com.
ESPN is continuing to ramp up its soccer coverage with an extensive online offering around the UEFA Champions League tournament that will provide all of the tournament’s 125 matches on a pay-per-view basis via its ESPNSoccernet.com and ESPNdeportes.com Web sites.

“This really is a landmark deal for us,” said Tim Bunnell, ESPN International’s senior vice president of programming and marketing. “This is where we’re going as a company. We are not just a TV broadcaster. We have so many different platforms where we can maximize our content.”

Starting with Tuesday’s matches, users from the United States and Latin America will be able to watch any of the European soccer tournament’s games live for $9.95 per match. No replays will be available initially. Viewers will not be offered a season plan initially.

“The pricing will probably evolve,” Bunnell said. “This is new for us. We are going to see what the reaction is.”

ESPN’s broadband service, ESPN360, also plans to increase its online offering by simulcasting ESPN2’s footage of the nine-month tournament. ESPN2 plans to televise 25 matches during the event.

ESPN sees the UEFA games as “tailor made” for Internet broadcasts in the United States, since they are played in the middle of weekday afternoons, when viewers typically aren’t home with their TVs. Held from September through May, the UEFA Champions League features the best European soccer clubs playing matches on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 2:45 p.m. ET.

ESPNSoccernet.com and ESPNdeportes.com will use feeds from both ESPN and UEFA. All matches on ESPNSoccernet.com will be in English; some matches on ESPNdeportes.com will be in Spanish.

ESPN plans to make all its revenue from subscriptions. Deal terms dictate that the Internet broadcasts have the same UEFA sponsors as the TV deal: MasterCard, Sony PlayStation, Ford and Heineken.

In addition to ESPN2’s coverage, ESPN Deportes plans to telecast 89 matches and will feature a weekly, 30-minute series called “UEFA Champions League Highlights.”

Bunnell said he could not predict usage figures.

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