ESPN acquires TV Abril stake in Brazil channel

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NEW YORK--ESPN has agreed to buy out Tevecap, its partner in ESPN Brasil. ESPN Brasil was launched in June 1995 as a joint venture between ESPN and Tevecap, a majority-owned subsidiary of Grupo Abril, a leading Brazilian publishing group.

The Portuguese-language channel is produced in Sao Paolo for the local market and reaches more than 2.3 million cable and direct-to-home viewers in Brazil. ESPN's global network, ESPN International, is also available in the Brazilian market with Portuguese voice-over.

ESPN declined to comment on how much it will pay Tevecap for its 50% stake.

"We are excited about ESPN Brasil's position as a locally-recognized sports authority, and we look forward to building on that position," says Willy Burkhardt, exec VP-general manager of ESPN International. "We hope to use ESPN Brasil to complement the strength and popularity of our primary network, ESPN ... (and look) forward to building on the great relationships we have with our Brazilian affiliates and advertisers."

ESPN plans no changes to its management team in Brazil.

The pullout from ESPN Brasil is Tevecap's second recent divestiture of pay-TV assets. A few months ago, it completed the sale of its shares in Galaxy Brasil, which operates DirecTV, to the regional company, Galaxy Latin America.

Parent Abril had been a founding partner in Galaxy Latin America, but had earlier sold out of the regional platform, selling its shares to the remaining Galaxy/DirecTV partners, Hughes Electronics and the Cisneros Group of Cos.

ESPN said Tevecap will focus on expanding its cable-systems operations in Brazil, as well as on providing new services, such as its recentlylaunched @JATO -- the first company to provide broadband Internet access in Sao Paolo.

ESPN is 20% owned by Hearst Corp. and 80% owned by Walt Disney Co., which has a long-standing relationship with Abril. Both owners have a 17.4% stake in Abril.

Copyright November 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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