Disney's ESPN and ABC continue to up their investment in soccer, securing the rights to soccer’s 2008 European Championships. ABC will air two matches and the rest will be carried on ESPN outlets.
As part of the deal, ESPN also acquires Spanish language rights for its ESPN Deportes network and pay television rights for Latin America.
The tournament, which takes place every four years, features the top national soccer teams in Europe, meaning ESPN could end up with several games featuring popular television draws such as England and defending World Cup champions Italy. The event will take place in June 2008 in Austria and Switzerland.
The last tournament, held in 2004, was available in the United States predominantly via pay per view.
But after drumming up strong ratings for this past summer’s World Cup, ESPN/ABC continues to build out its soccer portfolio.
In addition to continuing to carry the World Cup every four years, the Disney networks also recently agreed to pay Major League Soccer its first significant rights fee (said to be around $8 million annually). Terms of the deal for the 2008 European Championships were unavailable at press time.
The Union des Associations Europeennes de Football, the governing body of European soccer, also granted rights for the summer 2008 event to ESPN Star for the Indian Sub-Continent, Al Jazeera for the Middle East and North Africa, and PCCW for Hong Kong.