ESPN has rights for 2012, 2016 Euros

Updated: January 31, 2011, 7:13 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- ESPN has acquired U.S. broadcast rights to soccer's European Championship in 2012 and 2016 and will televise every game of both tournaments.

The Union of European Football Associations planned to make the announcement Tuesday.

"Euro is a perfect counterbalance to World Cup, so strategically it makes sense for us," Scott Guglielmino, ESPN's senior vice president for programming, said during a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "The passion involved in national team play at the highest level is something that's incredibly powerful, unlike anything else."

ESPN purchased U.S. broadcast and Internet rights in all languages. The network televised the 2008 Euros and has U.S. English-language rights to its sixth consecutive World Cup in 2014.

Plans include broadcasting Euro matches on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3.com, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Radio and ESPN Mobile.

"With interest in football growing significantly in America, ESPN will no doubt provide great visibility for UEFA's national team competitions through their promotional and programming capacity," Guy-Laurent Epstein, marketing director of UEFA Events, said in a statement.

The 2012 tournament in Poland and Ukraine will have 31 games and runs from June 8 to July 1. The field expands from 16 to 24 teams for the 2016 tournament in France, which will have 51 matches.

ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 -- all owned by The Walt Disney Co. -- averaged a 2.1 rating and 3.26 million viewers for last year's World Cup. The rating was up 31 percent from a 1.6 four years ago.

In 2008, seven Euro matches on ESPN averaged 1.1 million viewers and 17 on ESPN2 averaged 673,000. The 2008 final was the first televised by a U.S. network and received a 2.3 rating and 3.76 million viewers on ABC. The Spanish-language broadcast was seen by 647,000 viewers on ESPN Deportes.

England, a popular team in the U.S., failed to qualify for the 2008 Euros and likely would help increase 2012 ratings if it makes the 16-nation field.

"It's an enormous brand and it would clearly drive some more usage," Guglielmino said.

Last year's World Cup taught ESPN the value of Internet and mobile distribution for soccer, primarily because of games that are during weekday afternoons U.S. time.

"The notion of TV everywhere, really utilizing digital media extensively," Guglielmino said.

ESPN also said it had obtained U.S. rights to numerous Euro qualifiers, including home games of Spain, Germany, France and the Netherlands, as well as games involving England, Italy, Ireland, Scotland and Portugal.

"That's going to help us tell the story earlier on," Guglielmino said.

As part of the deal, ESPN3.com and ESPN Deportes will televise the 2013 UEFA Women's Championship and the 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017 UEFA under-21 championships.

Guglielmino said ESPN had withdrawn its offer for English-language U.S. rights to this summer's Copa America after Traffic Sports, the company that owns them, sold American Internet rights separately. Univision holds U.S. Spanish-language rights.

"It's really unfortunate," Guglielmino said. "That's one we would have loved to add."


Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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