Walt Disney's sports cable channel ESPN plans to buy the North American Sports Network (NASN), which broadcasts North American sports to European viewers, in a bid to expand ESPN’s European market share, The Wall Street Journal reported.
NASN is currently owned by Benchmark Capital Europe, a private-equity firm and Setanta Sports Holdings, a sports broadcaster based in Ireland.
The amount being offered for London based NASN is not yet known but a source familiar with the deal said it was between $107 million and $120 million including debt assumption, the Journal reported.
Taking control of NASN will allow ESPN to further its strategy of developing operations in Europe. They currently operate ESPN Classic channel, which shows old sporting events, including tennis, soccer and cricket matches.
The acquisition will gain ESPN the exclusive rights to show National Hockey League and Major League Baseball games in Europe and the exclusive rights to the National Football League in some parts of Europe.
The success of the strategy relies on the growing popularity of American sports amongst European viewers, which is partly due to European athletes joining U.S. teams.
"As more Europeans enter the American sports leagues, I think that interest (in Europe) will grow," Lynne Frank, ESPN managing director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa told the Journal. "We have aspirations to build a strong presence in Europe."