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ESPN Unit Hits 30M

New York-ESPN Classic has hit the 30 million-subscriber mark, gaining 12 million homes in the past year, officials said last week.

As of September of last year, the network was in only 17 million households, so its distribution growth has exceeded 55 percent in the past 12 months. ESPN Classic's subscriber base has more than tripled since ESPN acquired the former Classic Sports Network three years ago.

ESPN Classic received a boost earlier this year when its owner, The Walt Disney Co., became involved into a retransmission-consent war with Time Warner Cable. To settle that dispute, Disney and Time Warner worked out a wide-ranging affiliation package that included stepped up rollouts for a number of Disney cable networks, including ESPN Classic and Lifetime Movie Network.

"With affiliates treating shelf space as the precious commodity it is, it speaks volumes that ESPN Classic has been able to experience such significant growth in the analog universe," said Sean Bratches, ESPN senior vice president of affiliate sales and marketing, in a prepared statement.

ESPN Classic, which is drawing more young male viewers, is launching several new initiatives, includingRoad Show,which premiered this past Saturday, Oct. 7.Road Showis a series of live events from cities across the country that feature local sports legends and is supported by city-specific programming.

In addition, ESPN Classic debutedFriday Tailgate,based on the weekend's most "storied" football rivalries. The network will also run encore presentations of the off-network seriesThe White Shadowstarting Dec. 1 at 11 p.m. weeknights.