ESPN to launch 24-hour college network, more under ESPNU banner

ESPN will launch ESPNU, a new 24-hour television network and multimedia initiative devoted to expansive coverage of college athletics in March 2005, the sports network announced.

George Bodenheimer, president of ESPN and ABC Sports, made the announcement on Tuesday to coincide with the network’s 25th anniversary.

The tentacles of the ESPNU venture touch nearly every aspect of the sports network’s operation, including television, radio, publishing, Internet, mobile technology and merchandising.

Bodenheimer pointed to the bond that college sports fans and ESPN have established over the past 25 years as reason for launching the new ESPNU and looked to the new venture as a way to enhance ESPN’s relationship with fans and colleges, and provide value to its affiliates and advertisers.

ESPNU will include:

  • Television: In its first year, ESPNU will televise about 300 live games. Most will be Division I football and men’s and women’s basketball. Coverage will include regular season championships. Studio programming will draw on ABC Sports, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN regional television resources.
  • The site will contain a special ESPNU devoted to college sports.
  • New Media: ESPNU-branded content, promos and interactive live elements will appear on ESPN Broadband, ESPN Mobile and ESPN Interactive TV.
  • ESPN The Magazine: The magazine will present ESPNU offerings, such as inserts.
  • ESPN Radio: ESPNU elements will be incorporated into broadcasts.
  • ESPN Enterprises: This arm of the network will introduce ESPNU merchandise.

Besides regular season Division I football and basketball games, ESPNU will cover collegiate baseball, softball, volleyball, lacrosse, hockey, wrestling and spring football. It also will include select high school football telecasts. Many events will be aired exclusively on the network, while other ESPNU telecasts will co-exist with events syndicated on other outlets regionally through ESPN Regional Television (ERT) arrangements. In its first year, ESPNU will supplement ESPN's and ESPN2's NCAA championship coverage with games from select rounds of various men's and women's NCAA championship events. The company also announced the launch of ESPN2 HD, its second channel devoted exclusively to HD coverage, which will begin telecasts in January.

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