Ten to launch 24-hour sports channel

HD network is first new free-to-air in 50 years

SYDNEY -- Australia's Network Ten said Tuesday that it will launch a 24-hour high-definition sports channel in the second quarter of 2009, the first major new commercial free-to-air channel in Australia in 50 years.

Named "One," the channel will be home of Ten's Australian Football League broadcasts, including the AFL Grand Final, the top-rated sports event in the country.

Launching One is Ten's biggest salvo yet fired in the battle with the pay TV sector that attracts about 28% of Australian homes with Fox Sports, ESPN, Europsort and Fuel TV. Estimates show 42% of homes have digital terrestrial television.

Network Ten CEO Grant Blackley said One's all-sports programming would "appeal to Australians' shared passion for sport" and ensure that Ten, which currently targets 18- to 49-year-olds will "continue to build a new and more diverse audience."

One will carry live and exclusively Ten's recently acquired broadcast properties from the United States: the National Football League, the National Basketball Assn., Major League Baseball, the U.S. Open golf and Masters Golf tours, and the ATP and WTA tennis events.

One also will broadcast the 2010 Commonwealth Games, Indian Premier League cricket, all Formula One Grand Prix races, Moto GP and NASCAR races and the new feather in Ten's cap, Australian swimming.

One's announcement comes just weeks before the launch of Freeview, the new digital TV brand under which Australia's free-to-air networks will jointly market 15 digital terrestrial channels that will be available beginning in 2009.