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ESPNU is an American digital cable and satellite sports television channel that is owned by ESPN Inc., a joint venture between the Disney Media Networks division of The Walt Disney Company (which owns a controlling 80% stake) and the Hearst Communications (which owns the remaining 20%). The channel is primarily dedicated to coverage of college athletics, and is also used as an additional outlet for general ESPN programming. ESPNU is based alongside its sister networks at ESPN's headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut.
As of September 2018, ESPNU is available to approximately 62.7 million pay television households (68% of households with cable TV) in the United States.
The network was launched on March 4, 2005, with its first broadcast originating from the site of Gallagher-Iba Arena on the Oklahoma State University campus in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The network's first live event was a semifinal game of the Ohio Valley Conference men's basketball tournament between Southeast Missouri State University and Eastern Kentucky University. The network was launched as a response to rival College Sports Television (CSTV) (now CBS Sports Network). ESPN was also being investigated by the U.S. Justice Department on allegations of "warehousing" collegiate sporting events from certain conferences, or signing a deal with a conference for all their games, but only televising a small number and not allowing the conference to make other arrangements for television broadcasts.
ESPN and XOS Technologies entered into a partnership for college athletics websites to compete directly with CSTV's growing internet presence. On August 28, 2006, ESPNU launched a new SportsCenter spin-off focusing entirely on college sports. The program, SportsCenterU, was originally scheduled to be broadcast from ESPN's headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut, however ESPN instead chose to originate the show from Charlotte. Mike Hall was the program's lead anchor until August 2007, when he left for the new Big Ten Network. He was replaced by Mike Gleason and Lowell Galindo. The two are joined on-set by color commentators that vary depending on the sports season.
The same day as SportsCenterU's debut, ESPNU launched the website ESPNU.com. The site included live streaming of college sports events, a multi-media player dedicated to college sports, podcasts and ESPN Motion clips of studio programming from the ESPNU television network.
ESPNU expanded its live programming to water polo by broadcasting its first-ever water polo match between the women's teams of Princeton University and Bucknell University on March 28, 2009, from DeNunzio Pool in Princeton, New Jersey.
In addition to its collegiate sports coverage, ESPNU has simulcast ESPN Radio's midday program over its airwaves since 2008, with the exception of a brief period between 2011 and 2012. The program airing for the majority of that time was The Herd with Colin Cowherd, which has since moved to Fox Sports Radio and is simulcast on Fox Sports 1. Following Cowherd's departure and several weeks of guest hosts taking over the timeslot, The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz became the permanent replacement for The Herd.
On April 26, 2017, as part of a larger series of company-wide cuts, it was announced that ESPNU's studio operations would be re-located from Charlotte to ESPN's main headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut. Less than 10 employees were laid off as part of the cuts. SEC Network and ESPN Events continue to operate out of Charlotte.
On August 8, 2017, ESPNU aired a marathon of lesser-known and unconventional non-college sports as "ESPN 8: The Ocho"—an homage to a fictitious eighth ESPN channel portrayed in the film DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story, which aired events that were "almost a sport". The stunt was reprised the following year on ESPN2.
On August 31, 2017, as part of an extension of ESPN's agreements with the service, Sirius XM's channel College Sports Nation was relaunched as ESPNU Radio. The channel carries audio simulcasts of ESPN college sports studio programming, as well as other programs and event coverage.
On May 19, 2009, ESPN announced it had reached a carriage agreement with Comcast, which allows the cable provider to carry ESPNU on a widely distributed digital cable tier, instead of a less popular sports tier. ESPNU was added to most Comcast systems in time for the start of the 2009–10 college football season. This ended several years of negotiations and somewhat of a feud between Comcast and ESPN over carriage of ESPNU.
On that same date, ESPNU reached a new carriage agreement with DirecTV, which moved the channel from the satellite provider's add-on "Sports Pack" to its basic "Choice" package on July 1, 2009, swapping channels and packages with ESPN Classic. Cablevision added ESPNU to its systems on March 23, 2010.
Outside the United States, ESPNU became available in Mexico in 2017.
Dish Network lawsuit
On August 4, 2009 Dish Network sued ESPN for $1 million in a federal lawsuit, alleging that ESPN breached its contract by not extending the same carriage terms that the programmer provided to Comcast and DirecTV for ESPNU and ESPN Classic. The lawsuit claims ESPN violated the "Most Favored Nations" clause.
The next day, ESPN announced it would fight the lawsuit and said in a press release: "We have repeatedly advised Dish that we are in full compliance with our agreement and have offered them a distribution opportunity with respect to ESPNU and ESPN Classic consistent with the rest of the industry. We will not renegotiate settled contracts and will vigorously defend this legal action, the apparent sole purpose of which is to get a better deal."
Dish Network moved the channel from its "Classic Gold 250" package to its "Classic Bronze 100" package on September 30, 2009. However, it claimed that the move had nothing to do with the lawsuit.
ESPNU has rights to sporting events from the following collegiate athletic conferences:
List of programs broadcast by ESPNU
- ESPNU Bracketology (2006–present)
- ESPNU Coaches Spotlight (2006–present)
- Give 'N Go (2007–present)
- Inside the Big East (2006–present)
- ESPNU Inside the Polls (2005–present)
- ESPNU Recruiting Insider (2006–present)
- SportsCenterU (2006–present)
- College Football Live
Live sports programs
- ESPNU College Baseball (2005–present)
- ESPNU College Basketball (2005–present)
- ESPNU College Football (2005–present)
- ESPNU College Hockey (2005–present) Mainly NCAA Tournament Only in First & Second Round for D1
- ESPNU College Lacrosse (2005–present) Includes D1 Men's Tournament until Semis when it moves to ESPN 2.
- ESPNU College Soccer (2005–present) NCAA D1 Men's Semifinals Finals & Women's Semifinals & Finals as well as select men's & women's regular season games
- ESPNU College Softball (2005–present)
- ESPNU College Volleyball (2005–present) Women's games as well as Beach Volleyball Tournament Day 1
- ESPN Megacast (2006–2007 as ESPN Full Circle, 2015–present)
- High School Showcase (2005–present)
- NBA on ESPN (2015–2017?) - Playoff broadcasts
- NBA G-League (2015–present) Mainly playoff games or G League showcase (since no fans are allowed to watch live at the stadium)
- International Champions Cup (2018–present) When there is more than one game on or an early morning game in United States Local Time
- United Soccer League (2018–present) a secondary network for the game of the week when ESPN2 or ESPNews has a live event at the games start
- Only when ESPNews has a planned live sports "game" event cuts off there coverage of the broadcast will it be on ESPNU.
- Formula One (2018–present) Live Telecast of Sky Sports F1 Grand Prix Practice 2 Coverage Only as ESPN 2 airs Practice 1 & Qualifying Sessions with ESPNews & Major Races On ESPN/ABC
- Pan American Games (2011, 2015 & 2019) English coverage of the games when ESPN 2 or ESPN has other sports coverage. Just a loop around of the main events/matches going on at that moment, however every match is in Spanish only on ESPN 3
- (2013-present) Showcases the best High School Athletes in the semi-finals & championship matches of some of the best tournaments in High School Lacrosse, Basketball, Softball, & Baseball. It ends with the best High School Football teams, players & games in the first weekend of the High School Football season with a three day event on the ESPN Networks.
- The Basketball Tournament Quarterfinal matches that ESPN or ESPN 2 can not show due to other sports.
- Faces of Sports (2005–present)
- Honor Roll (2005–present)
- The Season: Ole Miss Football (2018 - present)
- Summer House (2006–2007)
- The U (2005–2006)
- UNITE (2012–2013)
- "ESPN layoffs hit Charlotte offices". The State. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
- "ESPN is creating ESPN8: 'The Ocho' for one glorious day". SB Nation. Retrieved 2017-08-18.
- Rosenthal, Phil. "'ESPN8: The Ocho' to replace ESPNU — if only for a day". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2017-08-28.
- Steinberg, Brian (August 8, 2018). "Bold strategy, Cotton: Inside ESPN's crazy plans to turn 'The Ocho' into a business". Variety. Retrieved August 8, 2018.
- Aycock, Jason (2017-08-29). "ESPNU Radio debuts on Sirius XM as ESPN, Sirius extend deal". Seeking Alpha. Retrieved 2017-08-31.
- "ESPN, SiriusXM to partner on 24-hour college sports station, ESPNU Radio". Awful Announcing. 2017-08-30. Retrieved 2019-03-16.
- "Comcast adds ESPNU". ESPN Media Zone (Press release). May 5, 2009. Archived from the original on May 22, 2009.
- "DIRECTV TO OFFER ESPNU IN ITS CHOICE PACKAGE - ESPNU's Distribution More Than 46 Million Subscribers". DirecTV (Press release). May 19, 2009. Archived from the original on July 16, 2011.
- "Cablevision Launches ESPNU In Standard-Definition And HD, Expands Free HD Line-Up With Addition Of Disney Channel HD And Other Popular Networks". PRWeb.com (Press release). March 23, 2010.
- "PlayStation Vue gets price cut plus ABC, ESPN". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2016-06-01.
- Newsdesk, Laughing Place Disney (2015-02-09). "SEC Network and Other ESPN Networks Comes to Sling TV - LaughingPlace.com". LaughingPlace.com. Retrieved 2016-06-01.
- ESPNU, SEC Network Launch in Mexico on Totalplay
- "Dish Sues ESPN Over Classic, ESPNU Carriage Terms - Satellite Operator Alleges Programmer Violated 'Most-Favored Nations' Contract Clause". Multichannel News. August 4, 2009.
- "ESPN: We'll Fight Dish Lawsuit - Sports Programmer Maintains It's In 'Full Compliance' On Carriage Contract For ESPNU, Classic". Multichannel News. August 5, 2009.
- "ESPN: Dish's Move Of ESPNU Unrelated To Lawsuit - Satellite Operator Claimed ESPN Violated Terms of Contract". Multichannel News. September 30, 2009.