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ESPN denies talks on Apple TV move

A marketing exec for ESPN speaks appreciatively of the opportunities, but the sports network later says there are no conversations with Apple about authenticating WatchESPN.

Apple's second-generation Apple TV set-top box.
Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple's Apple TV set-top box could get more sports programming as part of a deal with Disney's ESPN network.

Bloomberg today relays its chat with ESPN marketing executive Sean Bratches, who said that the company would be game for offering its WatchESPN service through the Apple TV to existing cable subscribers.

"We're a platform-agnostic content company," Bratches told Bloomberg. "To the extent that in the future there's an opportunity with Apple to authenticate through the pay-TV food chain as we're doing with Microsoft, that's something that we will participate in."

However, a spokesperson for the Bristol, Conn.-based sports programmer denied that a deal with Apple was imminent.

"We're not having conversations with Apple about authenticating WatchESPN," ESPN's spokesperson Amy Phillips later told Bloomberg.

Microsoft's Xbox 360 already has access to ESPN3, with access to live and on-demand sports programming. However users must be paying members of Microsoft's XBOX Live Gold service and have high-speed Internet access from an affiliated provider.

So far, Apple's set-top box has gone with a different approach. There are apps for Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, and the National Hockey League. However, each of those services requires a yearly fee and does not require a cable subscription.

ESPN already has a WatchESPN app available for the iPhone and iPad (iTunes). Similar to apps from cable providers and paid premium TV networks, it requires users to be paid-cable subscribers.

An Apple spokesman declined to comment.

Updated at 4:15 p.m. PT: With response from Apple. Updated at 5:05 p.m. with ESPN denial.