ESPN Gets La Liga TV Rights In U.S.

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ESPN has made a significant move today by announcing that GolTV has sublicensed some of its U.S. TV rights of La Liga coverage to ESPN.

In March of this year, GolTV announced that it had renewed its rights to La Liga TV coverage in the United States for another three seasons. Now, GolTV has sub-licensed a portion of its La Liga TV coverage to ESPN in a move that compensates for ESPN losing its Champions League TV coverage for the next three years to Fox Soccer Channel.

What this means is that beginning next season, ESPN Deportes has the option to air up to 114 matches (although at this time is plans to show 95 regular-season games), while ESPN2 will present approximately 20 in windows that ESPN Deportes general manager Lino Garcia said “won’t conflict with the network’s schedule.”

Further, ESPN Radio will air select games, while Deportes’, mobile and online holdings will be able to air extensive footage.

GolTV and ESPN will alternate selections on week-to-week basis, choosing from six matches. “We will share the games with the top teams with our partner,” said Garcia.

The deal raises ESPN Deportes game, as well as the profile and live lineup of broadband service, ESPN360.com, which will simulcast the matches that air linearly on its  Spanish-language sister service and ESPN2.

The deal between GolTV and ESPN is a smart one for both parties. After recent cuts, GolTV will assuredly welcome ESPN’s money to sublicense their U.S. TV rights to La Liga. Plus, GolTV may gain a lot more visibility in the marketplace by ESPN and GolTV working together in marketing campaigns. For ESPN, this helps fill a massive void left by the Champions League coverage it has lost. And it’s at a better time than any now that Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo have moved to Real Madrid and the interest in La Liga this season will skyrocket.

The move is made even more interesting given that today is the deadline the Premier League has set in the United Kingdom for bids for Setanta’s 46 2009-2010 games. It’s quite possible ESPN may be making a move to try to acquire the packages that Setanta lost in the U.K. at the same time it has sewn up La Liga coverage in the United States.

The U.S. TV rights to the Premier League for 2010-2013 season, meanwhile, will be finalized this Fall. ESPN may be interested in trying to acquire those too to accentuate its coverage of soccer.

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