ESPNU Prepares for Kickoff

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ESPNU, ESPN’s new 24/7 network devoted wholly to college events, will reach approximately 3 million subscribers when it bows March 3.

The network has reached deals with DirecTV and Adelphia, which will place ESPNU on its digital basic tier. With competition from CSTV: College Sports TV and Fox Sports digital networks, ESPN is aiming to keep the new network on basic tiers as opposed to sports packages, says Burke Magnus, ESPNU Vice President and GM.

Initial coverage will focus mainly on football and basketball, with plans to branch out into “emerging sports” including softball, lacrosse, wrestling and women’s volleyball, according to Magnus.

“If we give a meaningful push to these sports, they can really take off,” Burke Magnus, ESPNU Vice President and GM.

Several college athletic directors confirmed last summer that they had been contacted by the Justice Department's antitrust division, which is investigating how ESPN acquires and chooses to air college football and basketball games.

The investigation is said to be examining ESPN’s practice of televising only a small portion of the games it acquires from a conference, then restricting the conference from selling air rights from other games to competing nets.
Speculation was that ESPNU was being launched to deflect the DOJ. ESPN has declined to comment on the investigation.

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