Disney in £130m deal with Sky as ESPN launches in the UK

LONDON - Disney is launching sports channel ESPN Classic and children's movie channel Disney Cinemagic on Sky Digital next month, after negotiating a new £130m-a-year distribution deal with the satellite giant.

ESPN Classic, a sports archive channel, will launch on March 13 while Disney Cinemagic will launch on March 16.

ESPN is synonymous with sport in the US and has more than 90m subscribers, who tune in for its mix of live basketball, baseball and American football.

The new channel, ESPN Classic, is being tailored specifically for UK audiences and will carry programmes such as 'England's 2003 Rugby World Cup Victory' and 'Borg vs McEnroe -- The Great Wimbledon Rivalry'.

Cinemagic will feature Disney's latest animated films such as Pixar's 'The Incredibles', mixed with old favourites such as 'Lady and the Tramp' and 'Cinderella'.

In addition, Disney's existing premium brands, Disney Channel and Playhouse Disney, will now be available on Sky's basic channel package Kids Mix.

Richard Freudenstein, Sky's chief operating officer, said: "With today's announcement, we are creating another compelling reason for families to join Sky digital and demonstrating again the strengths in content and innovation that position Sky well for sustained growth."

George Bodenheimer, co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of ESPN and ABC Sports, said: "ESPN has built up a passionate bond with sports fans and we are very excited to extend this with the launch of ESPN Classic in the UK on the Sky platform."

Under the ammended distribution deal, Sky will carry children's channel Jetix and timeshift channel Jetix+1 until 2012.

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