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ESPN doesn't rule out soccer channel launch

  • Reuters, Thursday, July 8, 2010 2:48 AM

ESPN has not ruled out the possibility of launching a dedicated soccer channel in the USA as ESPN President George Bodenheimer said his company has had "off the charts" success with its World Cup coverage.

The Walt Disney Co.-owned cable network shares the U.S. rights to English-language live coverage of the World Cup with sister network ABC for 2010 and 2014 World Cups  and plans to increase its coverage of top-level European soccer.

"We had high expectations for the World Cup, but I think we met and exceeded all of them," said Bodenheimer. Nielsen ratings data compiled ahead of the last four matches indicated World Cup viewership jumped by 50 percent from 2006, with 2.94 million viewers per game.

ESPN picked up rights to some English Premiership League matches in Britain and the USA after the collapse of Irish broadcaster Setanta. Bodenheimer said ESPN is moving "full steam ahead" with more soccer coverage. As for launching a soccer channel, Bodenheimer said, "It's not something we're actively looking at right now, but I wouldn't rule anything out given that the company likes to continue to grow."

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