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Gol TV-ESPN Deal Aids 'Liga'

Gol TV has passed off some of its rights to Spain's top soccer circuit to ESPN and, as a result, La Liga will almost double its match exposure in the U.S.

In March, the soccer-centric Gol TV, which has aired La Liga action in the U.S. for the past six seasons, renewed its deal for the 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons with rights-holder Mediapro. In the pact with ESPN, matches will go to ESPN Deportes and ESPN2.

Neither party would discuss deal points. Gol TV chief operating officer Rodrigo Lombello said it was a sublicensing deal. “But it's deeper than that, because we really want to promote La Liga and make sure it's the No. 1 soccer league,” he said. “We are partners on the programming side. It makes sense we are partners on the financial side as well.”

Gol TV will continue to air 120 matches, with two to three matches per weekend over La Liga's 38 rounds. ESPN secured an array of rights through the 2011-12 season, notably the ability for ESPN Deportes to air up to 114 matches (although at this time it plans to show 95 regular-season games).

ESPN2 will present approximately 20 matches in windows that ESPN Deportes general manager Lino Garcia said “won't conflict with the network's schedule.

Further, ESPN Radio will air select games, while Deportes radio, mobile and online holdings will be able to air extensive footage.

Gol TV and ESPN will alternate selections on a week-to-week basis, choosing from six games. “We will share the games with the top teams with our partner,” said ESPN Deportes general manager Lino Garcia.

La Liga raised its profile in recent weeks with Real Madrid acquiring the rights to stars Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo and with FC Barcelona's victory over Manchester United in the UEFA Champions League final.