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ESPN expands by buying European channel

LONDON -- ESPN has purchased a European channel dedicated to showing North American sports, expanding its operations in Europe.

ESPN has agreed to buy cable channel NASN and will bring more American sports to the European market. NASN shows NHL and Major League Baseball games in Europe and the exclusive rights to the NFL in some parts of Europe.

ESPN will maintain those rights in the purchase from the channel's current owners, Benchmark Capital Europe and Setanta Sports, based in Ireland.

Currently, ESPN Classic is the main ESPN channel in Europe. ESPN also owns Soccernet, a soccer website. It also 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 was started in late 2002 by Amory Schwartz, a New York lawyer 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.

Information from The Associated Press is included in this report