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ESPN Sells U.K. and Ireland Channels to BT Group

United Kingdom telecom giant BT Group has agreed to purchase ESPN's U.K. and Ireland TV channels business, which comprises the ESPN and ESPN America channels, as well as a TV-rights portfolio that includes the FA Cup, Scottish Premier League, UEFA Europa League and German Bundesliga.

The transaction is expected to close by July 31. BT will continue to operate at least one ESPN-branded channel that will become part of the BT Sport TV package set to launch this summer.

BT will be able to continue to air U.S. sports properties that aired on ESPN America, such as NCAA college basketball and football and NASCAR stock-car racing. The deal allows BT Sport customers to see live coverage of the FA Cup for the 2013-14 season; the Scottish Premier League until the end of the 2016-17 season; and the UEFA Europa League and German Bundesliga through to the end of the 2014-15 season.

ESPN will retain its existing U.K. digital media businesses, including, ESPNcricinfo (cricket), ESPNFC (soccer), ESPNscrum (rugby), ESPNF1 (Formula 1) and broadband streaming service ESPNPlayer. ESPN Classic was not included in the deal.

"We are delighted to have reached agreement with ESPN for the acquisition of their U.K. channels business and that we have been able to add some exciting new sports rights to the ones we already have," BT Retail chief executive of television Marc Watson said.