SBJ/May 7 - 13, 2007/This Weeks News

ESPN Deportes gets rights to Pan Am Games

ESPN Deportes has picked up the exclusive rights in the United States to Spanish-language broadcasts of this year’s Pan American Games, which are slated to begin in July.

The games, however, haven’t found a U.S. broadcaster that is willing to take the English-language feed, and sources said there’s a good chance the English-language rights will go unsold for the second straight event.

ESPN has decided not to pick up the English-language rights to this year’s event, the 15th edition of the games, citing the small sales and scheduling window and relatively high rights fee. ESPN officials would not comment on the terms for either the English-language or Spanish-language multiplatform rights. 

Instead, ESPN and ESPN2 will telecast five total hours of ESPN Deportes coverage, in Spanish, during the games. ESPN will carry two hours of basketball coverage from the semifinals. ESPN2 will devote two hours to boxing and one hour to volleyball. The English-language networks will most likely take the Deportes feed during a midweek time slot.

ESPN and ESPN2 have carried the Spanish-language Deportes feed on several prior occasions, the most recent being the Juan Pablo Montoya-won Busch Series race in Mexico in March.

The problem some of the English-language broadcasters are having with the Pan Am Games deal is that the rights are being granted just two months before the event, giving broadcasters little time to sell advertising, clear schedules and create marketing plans.

“This is what I mean when I say this is an undervalued property,” said Lino Garcia, general manager of ESPN Deportes. “The way this property has been managed has been on a last-minute basis like this.”

Held once every four years (always the year before the Summer Olympics), this year’s event is planned for July 13-29 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The games are managed by a nongovernment, nonprofit company that is overseen by the Brazilian Olympic Committee. Officials there were not available for comment.

ESPN Deportes’ deal includes exclusive Spanish-language radio and wireless rights, plus some nonexclusive Internet rights. The network is planning to telecast 160  hours from the games, with 130 hours live.

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