ESPN Classic’s days as one of the country’s biggest sports channels may be over.
Executives in Bristol are set to allow cable and satellite distributors to swap ESPN’s classic sports channel for its college network, ESPNU, which they hope presents a newer, hipper alternative to Classic’s staid, dated programming.
As part of the offer, ESPN also is looking for added distribution for its Spanish-language channel, ESPN Deportes, and its broadband network, ESPN360.
An interesting wrinkle to ESPN’s proposal would allow operators to move ESPN Classic to a sports tier, where it would be ESPN’s first channel to reside on the traditionally low-penetrated mantle.
Right now, ESPN Classic is in more than 63 million homes, typically on analog and digital basic tiers.
By contrast, ESPNU is in about 25 million homes, mainly on digital basic tiers, and ESPN Deportes is in fewer than 5 million homes. ESPN360 has not yet been able to reach carriage deals with the top cable operators, though it has reached broadband agreements with Verizon and AT&T.
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Though I don’t watch either much, I used to watch classic quite a bit, but I can see where ESPNU which focuses on what’s going on now in college sports, rather than say, Lew Alcindor’s first NCAA championship, would attract a broader audience, so I think swapping the networks makes sense.