US sports broadcaster ESPN is close to signing a deal to launch a UK version of its popular Classic Sport channel -and remains in talks to launch a 24-hour live European sports channel.
Its global division, ESPN International, already broadcasts French and Italian versions of its "greatest moments in sport" channel, which replays footage from past events including the Olympics. With 7m Classic Sport subscribers in France and Italy, it is looking to establish British, German and Spanish versions of the channel.
It gives us the opportunity to launch quickly channels that are complementary to existing offerings," said Russell Wolff, managing director of ESPN International.
ESPN is likely to strike a deal for a Classic Sport UK channel before the end of the year. "We're very focused on launching in the UK," he said, adding that ESPN International was also in "active" discussions with potential partners to launch a 24-hour live European channel. "Nothing is imminent," he said. "We're in the business of building the ESPN brand and making money."
ESPN International's expansion is part of parent company Disney's plan to increase its business outside the US. Disney chief executive elect Bob Iger recently stated international growth was a priority for Disney.