ESPN Selling British Channels to BT Group

LONDON (AP) -- ESPN is withdrawing from British and Irish television, announcing Monday that its channels are being sold to the BT Group (NYSE: BT  ) .

The U.S. sports network, which is owned by Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) , increased operations in Britain in 2009 after capturing some domestic rights to show English Premier League matches.

But ESPN lost those rights, which were vital to attracting subscribers, for next season as BT joined BSkyB in showing Premier League games for the first time.

The sports rights currently held by ESPN will transfer to BT, with the deal expected to be completed by July 31. Financial details were not disclosed.

BT, whose new sport operation is based at the London Olympics broadcast center, said at least one of its channels will continue to carry the ESPN name.

"We could not be more proud of the TV channels built and nurtured by our talented team over the past four years," said Ross Hair, ESPN's managing director in Europe, Middle East and Africa. "The value of that hard work is reflected in this deal with BT and the continuation of ESPN on television screens across the U.K. and Ireland."

BT's new channels will show the U.S. sports currently shown on ESPN America, including college basketball, college football and NASCAR.

The rights to show the FA Cup, Scottish Premier League, Bundesliga and Europa League are among those that will also be transferring to BT.

ESPN will continue to run its sports websites in Britain.

Separately, ESPN said it is considering closing down its ESPN Classic channel in the Europe, Middle East and Africa regions.


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