On April 1, ESPN will launch ESPN Deportes, a 52-week block of exclusive Spanish-language Sunday night sports programming. The origins of ESPN Deportes, which translates into English as "ESPN Sports," actually began last summer when ESPN and Major League Baseball agreed to provide ESPN's affiliates the right to carry a limited number of Spanish- language Sunday Night Baseball telecasts.
This year ESPN is taking the effort to an exponentially higher level. The four-to-six hour weekly programming block will feature among its offerings: full seasons of Sunday Night Baseball and Sunday Night NFL, exclusive boxing matches and, for the first time ever, a Spanish-language version of the industry's leading sports news show, ESPN's SportsCenter
"A big part of ESPN's success is the strength of our programming," said John Wildhack, senior vice president, programming for ESPN. "ESPN Deportes will provide us the opportunity to partner with our local cable affiliates to deliver the excitement of ESPN's programming to two groups simultaneously – the massive number of English-speaking sports fans, and the growing number of those for whom Spanish is a first language."
Willy Burkhardt, executive vice president of ESPN International and ESPN Enterprises, added, "ESPN's growing popularity across the globe taught us that certain sports like Major League Baseball, NFL football and boxing can transcend cultural barriers. It's exciting that in the same geographic area as our domestic networks, something like ESPN Deportes can bring the passion of ESPN to a whole new culture."
On April 1, ESPN Deportes will telecast the highly anticipated Major League Baseball match-up between the Texas Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays. The game, the season-opener for both clubs, will start at 4 p.m. ET from San Juan, Puerto Rico, and will be the first as a Ranger for All Star shortstop Alex Rodriguez.
Each ESPN Deportes MLB telecast will be coordinated on-site by an ESPN International production team. Ernesto Jerez will call play-by-play, and Candy Maldonado will serve as analyst.
Additional Major League Baseball programming will include Baseball Max, a weekly magazine-style show with news, highlights and player profiles. Baseball Max will debut on ESPN Deportes on April 8 at 7:30 p.m.
"Major League Baseball has a long history with our Latino fan base," said Tim Brosnan, executive vice president, business, Major League Baseball. "Working with our partner ESPN provides us with the ability to bring that important segment of our fans and viewers even closer to baseball."
Details of ESPN's agreement with the NFL for domestic distribution on ESPN Deportes, including the 2001-2002 season schedule and information on Spanish-language NFL ancillary programming will be announced prior to the 2001 NFL Draft, scheduled for April 21and 22 in New York.
ESPN's Spanish-language telecasts differ greatly from the service provided by SAP. ESPN Deportes' telecasts will include Spanish-language audio, graphics and commercials.
ESPN affiliates will be able to receive ESPN Deportes programming and distribute it to their customers on system channels not already committed to other ESPN networks. The company is currently working with its affiliates and potential advertisers on distribution and sponsorship agreements.
At the beginning of the 2000 season, ESPN and ESPN2 became the first national networks to incorporate Spanish accent marks and the Spanish alphabet when graphically presenting the names of Hispanic Major League Baseball players.
In November 2000, ESPNdeportes.com, a Spanish-language sports site produced by ESPN Internet Group, was launched. The site serves the U.S. Hispanic and Latin American communities, delivering original sports content for Internet users in those markets.