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GolTV Kicks Off GolTV HD

As GolTV kicks off its coverage of two of the top European soccer leagues this month, it will provide far superior views of the pitches from Spain and Germany.

The independent, bilingual futbol programmer kicked off GolTV HD on Aug. 4 with DirecTV. The network was nearing a deal for a second affiliate at press time.

"There has been very positive feedback from affiliates and consumers. You can see so much more of the field. Soccer is a much different experience in HD," GolTV COO Rodrigo Lombello said. "We're confident GolTV HD will launch with other distributors."

Presently counting some 13 million subscribers, GolTV is positioned as part of Spanish-language and sports packages, and in some markets is available on expanded basic. Lombello, who notes that English-language viewers represent about 70% of the network's subscriber base, believes GolTV HD will help fill in the few remaining gaps in its Hispanic coverage areas.

Presented in 1080i HD and sporting Dolby AC3 sound, GolTV will showcase live and primetime matches from La Liga and Bundesliga, Spain and Germany's top soccer circuits.

Beginning with a preview show Aug. 19, GolTV will telecast its original analysis series Bundesliga Magazine every Thursday at 7:30 p.m. (ET). Viewers can also catch up or rewind with Hallo Bundesliga on Mondays at 7:30 p.m., when the all-soccer network recaps the weekend with the best goals and match highlights.

As for the matches in the German league, GolTV is slated to kickoff its HD coverage of the 2010-2011 Bundesliga season with Hamburg vs. Schalke 04 on Aug. 21 at 12:30 p.m. (ET). Live from Imtech Arena in Hamburg, GolTV will deliver the first look as Spanish legend Raúl dons a new uniform (pictured), joining top German World Cup goalkeeper Manuel Neuer on the field for the first time as a member of the FC Schalke 04 side.

The network will also deliver exclusive live coverage of the match between Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen on Aug. 22 at 11:30 a.m.

"Germany's third-place finish in the 2010 World Cup reminded us all of the strength and sheer talent of these players who make Bundesliga one of the top international leagues with the ability to recruit such skilled soccer icons as Raúl from La Liga's Real Madrid," Lombello said. "And now viewers can feel even closer to the action by tuning in to follow their favorite Bundesliga clubs in crystal clear high definition on GolTV HD."

Through a sublicensing deal with DirecTV, GolTV televises half of the UEFA Europa League. Similarly, GolTV, the primary U.S. rights-holder to La Liga, has sublicensing pacts with ESPN2, ESPN Deportes and other properties, as well as the leading satellite-TV provider.

On a typical weekend with 10 matches from La Liga, which features such world-renowned clubs as FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, GolTV will air four games, while ESPN2 and DirecTV have access to three apiece.

"We've finally found a way to better exploit the windows and the properties. I think everybody is pleased with the ratings," Lombello said, noting that with escalating rights fees, sharing properties has become "financially mandatory."

Gol's other properties include Copa del Rey, Brazil's Campeonato Paulista and Brasileirão, action from Uruguay and Colombia circuits, plus qualifiers for the upcoming Euro 2012 tournament.

Elsewhere, GolTV is in the development stages for a second season of Soccer Aces, which will return in 2011. The international reality competition series followed 17 amateur players, including one from the U.S., in soccer-related workouts during a training camp in Madrid. The winner earned an opportunity to play during the preseason with La Liga club Atletico Madrid. The contestants were judged by network founder and CEO Enzo Francescoli, the former Uruguayan midfielder nicknamed "The Prince" and one of FIFA's 100 best soccer players of all time, and fellow soccer legend Zinedine Zidane.

The format and location for the sophomore campaign had not been finalized at press time, according to GolTV officials.

Overall, Lombello sees continued growth for futbol in the States in general and for GolTV in particular.

"Soccer is becoming an increasingly important property in the U.S., not only with Hispanics, but the general market as well," Lombello said. "That was proven by the performance of the World Cup."

He said the action from the 2010 FIFA tournament from South Africa has resulted in more interest in Gol from ratings, affiliate and advertising perspectives.

To the latter, Lombello reports that the ad market is improving from the sluggish times it experienced in 2008 and the first half of 2009. "We're still finalizing some upfront deals, but it looks like there is more interest coming out of the World Cup."