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ESPN Buys London-Based Sports Network

ESPN agreed to buy London-based cable channel NASN in an effort to broadcast more American sports in Europe.

NASN, also known as the North American Sports Network, is the only European channel dedicated to North American sports.

ESPN did not reveal the terms of the deal Tuesday with the channel's current owners, Benchmark Capital Europe and Setanta Sports, a sports broadcaster based in Ireland.

The deal will let Disney expand its ESPN operations in Europe, which are limited to its ESPN Classic channel, a soccer Web site and a business that sells some sports shows to other European networks.

"Growing our business in Europe is a key strategic initiative for us," said Russell Wolff, managing director of ESPN International. "We expect NASN, which has performed well and created a unique market position, to be a strong addition to our portfolio."

NASN has more than 6 million subscribers in 26 European countries.

As part of the deal, ESPN will also receive NASN's exclusive rights to show NHL and Major League Baseball games in Europe and the exclusive rights to the NFL in some parts of Europe.

ESPN plans to rebrand NASN at an unspecified date.

NASN was started in late 2002 by a New York lawyer, Amory B. Schwartz, who moved to London for work and wasn't able to watch his favorite team, the Philadelphia Phillies, on television. The channel initially targeted U.S. expatriates living in Europe but found it was drawing more European than American viewers.

ESPN is 80 percent owned by ABC, which is a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Co.

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