AOL for Broadband Expands Deal With NFL

On Tuesday, America Online inked a new deal with the National Football League to expand video and audio offerings exclusively to AOL for Broadband subscribers.

While financial terms of the pact were not disclosed, AOL and the NFL did sign a multi-year deal that will improve the amount of streaming media content beginning this season.

No live video of NFL games will be available on AOL for Broadband or on the NFL.com site because of contractual arrangements with the League’s broadcast and satellite television providers.

With the kickoff of the 2003-2004 NFL season a little more than a week away, the new multimedia content will be offered to AOL for Broadband subscribers free of charge.

“All of the content will be free for AOL for Broadband subscribers, and some of it is exclusive,” said Tom Richardson, general manager of AOL Sports, based in New York.

“Much of the audio and video content from the sports leagues is going behind a paid subscription wall,” Richardson said, but this offering improves the AOL Sports experience at no extra charge to AOL for Broadband subscribers.

Richardson said if an individual Internet subscriber went to the NFL.com, and wanted access to the league’s “NFL Field Pass” it would have to pay either $9.95 per month, or $34.95 for the entire season.

“NFL@AOL will bring AOL for Broadband subscribers access to game-by-game previews and highlights, ‘Greatest Rivalries’ and ‘Greatest Players’ packages, weekly ‘NFL Team Spotlights,’ exclusive programming from HBO’s ‘Inside the NFL,’ AOL self expressions and instantaneous information on their favorite teams and players,” AOL said in a press release.

AOL for Broadband subscribers pay a monthly Internet service fee, and the company believes it serves its interests to provide the content for free, even though Richardson said the contract is “the biggest deal to date between AOL and any of the sports leagues.”

AOL Sports has existing deals with all the other major sports leagues, including Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League.

“We are offering a seamless, multiband, on-demand football offering that provides value for the retention and acquisition of customers, and offers advertising a better value proposition,” Richardson said.

The NFL video and audio content will be created by the league, and then will be available to AOL for Broadband subscribers. Previously, the NFL signed a deal with IBM to digitize a wide array of media assets in the NFL Films archive.

It is not clear, whether the NFL will strike similar deals with other broadband ISPs interested in offering added-value content to their subscribers.

But the NFL is entering into other streaming media alliances, like one struck with Real Networks where subscribers can listen to online broadcasts of NFL games for a monthly, or fee for access for the entire NFL season.

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