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ESPN2 HD Plans Marathon Australian Open Coverage


While Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien try to figure out where they may stand in the late-night television sweepstakes on NBC, some fresh competition is on tap over the next couple of weeks on ESPN from an unlikely locale for live American TV coverage: Australia.

ESPN2 HD is planning marathon late-night telecasts of the Australian Open in Melbourne (where it's now summer) starting this Sunday, Jan. 17. ESPN2 HD plans to air up to 113 live hours of tennis (plus more coverage from afternoon re-broadcasts) — which the sports network said will signal the most in ESPN's 26-year history with the annual event down under.

The added live and taped coverage also marks the first time any ESPN channel will provide total HD coverage (720p) of the Aussie tourney in Melbourne.

Match play begins on Sunday at 7 p.m. (EST) and will continue live for two weeks through the women's and men's finals live into the early hours of Saturday, Jan. 30, and Sunday, Jan. 31.

ESPN's broadband channel, ESPN360.com, also plans to grow its live programming of the event to a total of 600 hours by allowing online viewers to choose from among seven screen windows on seven courts — often to be offered simultaneously.