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EXCLUSIVE: ESPN America deal close but channel won’t have crown jewels

Disney-owned sports broadcaster ESPN is close to agreeing a deal for the sale of its ESPN America channel, the basic-tier American sports channel which is distributed throughout Europe.

The company has spent the last four months in negotiations with three main bidders – pan-European sports broadcaster Eurosport, premium sports broadcaster Setanta, and Liberty Global’s channel operation Chellomedia.

Negotiations are in the final stages and a deal could be announced in two to three days, according to informed sources.

TV Sports Markets understands that the sale does not give the buyer the rights to the channel’s three major US sports properties: ice hockey’s NHL, American football’s NFL and baseball’s MLB.

The NHL content is owned by the Advisers Media International agency. The MLB and NFL content reverted to the leagues when the channel was put up for sale. The bidders have been in separate, parallel, negotiations with the agency and the two leagues.

It is also understood that the negotiations have been complicated by a big bid by German sports broadcaster Sport1 for the channel’s content in Germany only.