NFL Plays Ball Online with AOL, Viacom


NEW YORK — The National Football League announced a deal in which Viacom Inc.’s CBS, AOL Time Warner Inc. and the sports site SportsLine.com Inc. will operate and promote the league’s Web properties.

Financial terms weren’t disclosed. On Monday, The Wall Street Journal reported that the NFL was expected to get about $110 million in cash for the five-year pact, as well as promotions and other services that could add more than $200 million in noncash value.

The NFL’s old deal with Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN Internet Group was valued at about $10 million over three years. That deal expired in late April after the NFL draft, but ESPN continued to run the NFL sites as negotiations over a new deal dragged out for months. The league has been pushing to get its online agreement in place before the start of the season, which begins the weekend after Labor Day.

Under the new deal announced Wednesday, SportsLine, which is affiliated with Viacom’s CBS network, will produce the NFL’s main site, NFL.com, as well as several others, including Superbowl.com. Individual NFL teams will continue to run their own sites.

Besides the cash portion of the deal, the NFL also will get promotional opportunities across various AOL and Viacom platforms, in particular CBS.

In return, AOL’s own brand will be promoted by the league in various ways. In addition, AOL and SportsLine will be able to use some NFL content in their own Web efforts, including certain audio game Webcasts and some of the league’s tightly held video clips, which are now only offered on NFL sites.

The Journal reported that the four partners are expected to share in the revenue from advertising and commerce on the league sites.

Separately, AOL Time Warner’s AOL and SportsLine extended their online relationship, which provides AOL members and visitors with SportsLine-produced sports news, statistics, major event coverage and fantasy games.

SportsLine will remain as an anchor tenant on the AOL sports channel and receive promotion across AOL brands, including Netscape, Compuserve, Digital City and ICQ. SportsLine will provide fantasy sports game products for AOL.

AOL and SportsLine first began their relationship in July 1997, when CBS SportsLine.com became an anchor tenant in the AOL Sports Channel. The companies expanded their relationship in October 1998.

Copyright (c) 2001 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.