Gol TV has passed off some of its rights to Spain's top soccer circuit to ESPN.
Under the pact, La Liga will almost double its match exposure in the U.S. with ESPN Deportes and ESPN2 joining Gol TV in the linear game.
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 with for the 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons with rights-holder Mediapro.
Neither party would discuss deal terms. Gol TV COO Rodrigo Lombello did say "technically it is 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. We are partners on the programming side. It makes sense we are partners on the financial side as well,"
Under the agreement, Gol TV will continue to air 120 matches, with two to three matches per weekend, over La Liga's 38 rounds.
ESPN, meanwhile, 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 is plans to show 95 regular-season games), while ESPN2 will present approximately 20 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', mobile and online holdings will be able to air extensive footage.
GolTV and ESPN will alternate selections on week-to-week basis, choosing from six matches. "We will share the games with the top teams with our partner," said Garcia.
Gol TV, which makes its coverage available in both English and Spanish for positioning on sports and Hispanic tiers, expects the deal will bring it added exposure with both audiences.
"We share a common place in that we are both Hispanic networks that show soccer, but Gol TV is a hybrid service that's all about soccer. ESPN Deportes presents many sports. These are complementary, not competing services," said Lombello, adding that his network will also gain with the general market via ESPN2's La Liga coverage.
When asked if the networks would be touting each other's upcoming La Liga game coverage, Garcia said the parties had not yet gotten "granular" about marketing or cross-promotional plans.
Similarly, there was nothing definitive to report at press time about whether they would jointly sell sponsorships and advertising. "We've concluded our upfront presentations and stared to close deals," said Lombello. "We don't know how the partnership will develop, but we have yet to discuss a joint ad sales effort."
For ESPN, the deal reaffirms its commitment to the world's most popular sport, following the recent loss of the UEFA Champions League to Fox Soccer Channel and Setanta Sports. The deal raises ESPN Deportes game, as well as the profile and live lineup of broadband service, ESPN360.com, which will simulcast the matches that air linearly on its Spanish-language sister service and ESPN2.
For its part, Gol TV has not yet finalized its broadband plans for La Liga, which previously have manifested in the form of highlights and interviews on GolTV.tv
"We're looking to expanding our efforts there," said Lombello.
Arguably, the globe's top domestic league -- proponents of the English Premiere League would say otherwise -- La Liga raised its marquee value in recent weeks with Real Madrid acquiring the rights to FIFA's top futbolers of 2007 and 2008 in the persons of Brazil's Kaka from AC Milan and Portugal's Christiano Ronaldo from Manchester United. FC Barcelona Lionel Messi, who helped dethrone ManU as the Champions League king, may earn that FIFA distinction for 2009.
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