Launches with football telecast on Thursday

College-sports dedicated network ESPNU will step up to high-definition this week, as ESPNU HD launches Thursday with a live telecast of the football game between Vanderbilt and Miami of Ohio at 7:30 p.m. ET.

 Within the first year of its launch, ESPNU HD plans to air more than 200 events in the 720-line progressive (720p) HD format, including all of its Thursday and Saturday live college football games as well as college basketball, lacrosse, baseball, softball, volleyball, wrestling and hockey. The network will be the fourth HD network offered by sports giant ESPN, following ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNNews; ESPN-produced HD sports coverage also airs on corporate cousin ABC.

 ESN says it has secured carriage for the new network with Time Warner Cable, Verizon FiOS TV, RCN, Atlantic Broadband and Broadstripe, and is working on further distribution with other multichannel operators.

 “ESPNU going HD is a natural progression of this robust brand and we look forward to serving all of our college sports fans this season and for seasons to come with this high-quality service,” said Rosalyn Durant, vice president and general manager of ESPNU, in a statement. “Since the advent of HD, fans have told us that nothing beats the HD viewing experience – especially when it comes to their favorite sports and teams.”