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ESPN fields 2nd net in Southern Cone

Feevee complements existing pan-regional channel ESPN Latin America

ESPN has launched a second network in crisis-mired Argentina and other countries of the Southern Cone.

ESPN+ launched May 1 in more than 2.5 million homes, and now has upped its distribution to 4 million under a carriage deal with leading multiservice operator Cablevision.

Other affils include Multicanal, Supercanal, DirecTV Latin America, and Sky and some limited carriage in Uruguay and Paraguay, ESPN said.

ESPN’s decision to bow in Argentina is surprising, given the impact of the deepening economic crisis on its pay TV industry.

All the MSOs are squeezed by dollar-based programming contracts and high, dollar-denominated debt with subscription revenues worth just 30% of their pre-devaluation levels.

The advertising pie has been shrinking during several years of recession and is expected to contract even further in 2002.

But ESPN’s feevee complements existing pan-regional channel ESPN Latin America, which features international sports leagues and events.

ESPN+ will carry local and regional sports programming, including the best of Argentine national team competitions in rugby, soccer, basketball and volleyball.

ESPN will add live Latin American editions of “SportsCenter,” in addition to a simulcast on both feevees at midnight.