Media Lifeline: ESPN

The network that launched in 1979 is rebranding its European offer as ESPN America.

2002: NASN (North American Sports Network), a European-wide television network offering coverage of major US and Canadian sports (such as baseball, basketball and gridiron) is launched with backing from Setanta and Vulcan Media Holdings.

2005: ESPN (Entertainment and Sports Programming Network) had launched in 1979 in the US, but its international expansion was slow. Lynn Frank joins from TBS to become the managing director EMEA, with a brief to mastermind European expansion.

2006: ESPN's owner (by this stage, the Disney Corporation) pays £60 million to acquire NASN from Setanta, thus gaining live European rights to plum properties such as the National Hockey League and National Football League. It now sits alongside the broadcaster's other major TV brand in Europe, the ESPN Classic channel, which majors on archive packages.

2008: ESPN consolidates its TV ad sales resource for all of its EMEA properties into a unit headed by Chris Nicholls, formerly the ad sales head of ESPN's UK operation. He reports to Mike Fox, ESPN's vice-president worldwide, advertising sales.

February 2009: In an initiative timed to coincide with Super Bowl weekend, ESPN rebrands NASN as ESPN America. Now broadcasting more than 800 live and as-live events each year, it is available in 14 million households across 43 countries in Europe.

Fast forward ...

March 2009: And ESPN now makes unequivocal its intention to become a major force in UK television sport when it is revealed that it has outbid BSkyB to snatch the top packages of live Premier League matches in the new contract running from 2010 to 2013. Setanta manages to retain the second-tier packages it already held, completing Sky's misery.