SBJ/March 5 - 11, 2007/This Weeks News

ESPNews in HD, Deportes coming to DirecTV

ESPN is planning to launch its third high-definition channel — an HD version of ESPNews — around the end of the year, and it has worked out a deal to have DirecTV carry the new service.

The deal, which was signed last week after several months of negotiations, also includes a DirecTV agreement to launch ESPN Deportes on April 1 on the satellite operator’s Spanish-language Para Todos package.

A formal announcement could come as early as this week.

ESPN’s third HD channel, ESPNews HD, will be placed on the same HD tier as ESPN HD and ESPN2 HD, and will be shot from the sports network’s all-HD complex in Bristol, Conn.

The deal comes nearly two months after a spate of HD announcements DirecTV made from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. That’s when it said it would launch 100 HD channels by the end of the year, including NFL Network, Speed and several regional sports networks, such as YES, NESN, Fox Sports Net and Comcast SportsNet.

ESPN also has reaffirmed its commitment to HD. Previously, it announced plans to produce all game coverage from seven sports entirely in HD this year: the NFL, NBA, MLB, NASCAR, MLS, college football and the National Hot Rod Association.

The two sides finally signed their deal last week when DirecTV agreed to give ESPN Deportes carriage on its Spanish-language Para Todos package, which has about 1.2 million subscribers. The deal will push ESPN Deportes’ distribution to about 3.5 million subscribers.

In the last several months, ESPN Deportes has gained carriage on the nation’s largest cable operator, Comcast, which has placed it on its Spanish-language Cable Latino tier, and on AT&T’s new U-Verse television service, which launched in San Antonio last June.

DirecTV’s Para Todos package offers four tiers of service, ranging from a $30-per-month package that has 35 Spanish-language channels and 25 English ones, to a $98 package that has 55 Spanish-language channels and 205 English ones. ESPN Deportes will be available on each of the packages. Other Spanish-language sports channels on the package include GolTV, Fox Sports en Español and TyC Sports.

ESPN Deportes holds Spanish-language rights to soccer’s UEFA Champions League, NASCAR and some NFL programming.

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