ESPNU Scores More Fans, Via Time Warner Deal

ESPNU, the 2-year-old network launched in response to College Sports Television (CSTV), will double its distribution this month, thanks to a sprawling deal between parent company Disney and Time Warner Cable.

TWC will make the channel available on its digital basic tier to 10 million of its subscribers by Sept. 1, taking ESPNU's availability to 20 million homes in time for football season, when it promises 70 games.

The rollout includes homes in New York by Aug. 30 and Los Angeles by Aug. 31.

ESPNU also stands to gain TWC subscribers quickly, since its deal gives it promised distribution to all TWC customers with digital basic--and more customers from a lower basic tier are upgrading. So far, 68% of TWC's 14.6 million customers have digital basic.

ESPNU's distribution bump is an outgrowth of a broader deal with Disney that gave TWC the rights to carry its owned-and-operated ABC stations and other benefits, such as providing a Disney Channel subscription VOD offering. In exchange, Disney received promises for distribution for a slew of cable channels, including ESPNU. The deal also included a renegotiation of the sub fees TWC would pay Disney for carriage of ESPN and ESPN2.

ESPNU launched in some 3 million homes in 2005.



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