U.K. Soccer Gives ESPN a Boost
ESPN is getting a long-sought boost in Britain by buying U.K. broadcast rights to several soccer games from England's Barclays Premier League. ESPN is buying the right to televise 46 games next season and 23 matches in each of the three following seasons.
Over the years ESPN has drawn tiny ratings in Britain, where it has only two channels: ESPN Classic, which shows old sporting events, and the flagship ESPN America channel. Premier League games, in contrast, attract large audiences in Britain.
ESPN's deal also puts the network in the odd position of competing with British Sky Broadcasting Group, one of Europe's largest media companies, at the same time it relies on BSkyB to reach viewers. As part of the agreement with the Premier League, ESPN will broadcast the games on BSkyB's satellite network, which has about 9.3 million subscribers.