Last March, when my alma mater George Mason University made it into the Final Four, we were hard-pressed to find a place -- ANY PLACE -- that was showing the games on TV. There are only a handful of bars in London that cater to American sports fans, most that only do so as a sidebar.
If I ever won the EuroMillions lottery, I would build a bar catered to American expats. There are plenty of bars in London that specifically cater to Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders, Polish and other immigrants. But there are hardly any places in London for Americans to call their own...which is quite strange considering there are some 225,000 Americans live in the UK including 50,000 Yanks in London alone. In fact, the UK ranks No. 3 in the list of countries with the most American citizens living outside the United States (Mexico is #1, with more than 1 million Americans, followed by Canada with 687,000.)
For American sports fans, this is the toughest time of year to live away from home, especially with the Super Bowl just around the corner. So I've added more links to restaurants and bars in London that will be showing the game (for odd legal reasons, the bars are now allowed to advertise that they are showing the "Super Bowl". Instead, the websites will only say that they are showing "The Big Game"). Sadly, none of my teams (Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens) are in the game this year. Oh well...
Things might be getting better soon for American sports fans in Europe. ESPN has announced that they are buying NASN -- the North American Sports Network. (see press release below!).
LONDON (AP) -- ESPN agreed to buy cable channel NASN in an effort to broadcast more American sports in Europe.
NASN is based in London and also is known as the North American Sports Network. It is the only European channel dedicated to North American sports.
ESPN is 80 percent owned by ABC, a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Co. The deal will allow Disney to expand ESPN operations in Europe, which are limited to its ESPN Classic channel, a soccer Web site and a business that sells some sports shows to other European networks.
ESPN did not reveal the terms of the deal Tuesday with the channel's current owners, Benchmark Capital Europe and Setanta Sports, a sports broadcaster based in Ireland.
"Growing our business in Europe is a key strategic initiative for us," said Russell Wolff, managing director of ESPN International. "We expect NASN, which has performed well and created a unique market position, to be a strong addition to our portfolio."
NASN has more than 6 million subscribers in 26 European countries.
As part of the deal, ESPN will also receive NASN's exclusive rights to show NHL and Major League Baseball games in Europe and the exclusive rights to the NFL in some parts of Europe.
NASN was started in late 2002 by Amory Schwartz, a New York lawyer who moved to London for work and wasn't able to watch his favorite team, the Philadelphia Phillies, on television. The channel initially targeted U.S. expatriates living in Europe but found it was drawing more European than American viewers.