NEW YORK -- Fox Soccer Channel beat out ESPN for right to the European Champions League starting next season, adding the top club event to a lineup that already includes the English Premier League and Italy's Serie A.
FSC didn't make an immediate announcement, preferring to wait until documents were signed with the Union of European Football Associations. ESPN, which had held the rights since the 1994-95 season, confirmed the switch.
"We have been informed by UEFA that they are moving ahead with a new partner in the United States," ESPN said in a statement Monday. "We made a strong bid that we believe would have helped continue the year-to-year growth of the UEFA Champions League in the United States."
ESPN and ESPN2 are available in 98 million homes and have broadcast Champions League matches in high-definition this season, while FSC reaches 34 million households and has not yet started hi-def telecasts. Also, FSC allows many top Premier League games to be telecast by Setanta Sports, which is not available on many cable systems.
UEFA, European soccer's governing body, announced March 11 that Fox will replace ESPN as the Champions League pay broadcaster in Central and South America next season under a three-season agreement.
ESPN averaged 255,000 households for 27 telecasts last season. Manchester United's victory over Chelsea in last May's final was ESPN's most-watched Champions League telecast, with 798,000 homes and 1,097,000 viewers.
ESPN has rights to the 2010 and 2014 World Cups and U.S. national team games through 2014. It shares Major League Soccer rights with Fox and other networks.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press