ESPN shoots to score big in '08 with site


ESPN will launch itself into an even wider worldwide pool early next year with the start of, which eventually will provide live scores for 23 sports in 180 countries.

The Bristol, Conn.-based Disney unit already has ramped up its international business of late, not only with linear channels but also key acquisitions like NASN, online sites for rugby and cricket and mobile businesses that have gone from five countries last year to 37.

ESPN chief George Bodenheimer told investors and analysts at the annual UBS media conferencethat the goal is to provide live scoring from every significant sport on Earth. That will include football, cricket, baseball and more, with soccer scores live from 460 leagues. will encompass six languages and have country-specific content and advertising.

"I believe this is ESPN's most international product," Bodenheimer said Monday. It will be managed by ESPN units in Bristol and New York, London and Bangalore, India.

Also on the agenda for next year is a rebranding of NASN, which ESPN purchased, as well as Monday's announcement that ESPNU will be the company's fourth network to be available in high-definition. It joins ESPN HD and ESPN2 HD as well as ESPNEWS in HD, which starts in March. ESPNU HD begins in August. NASN is a London based European sports network.

At the conference, Bodenheimer also talked up ESPN's long-term rights deals -- all but one major deal locked up through 2012 -- as well as the fact that 80% of its subscriber base is locked up through 2012 in pacts with distributors. All are locked up through 2010, he said.