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NFL, ESPN in Internet Partnership

May 27, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ The NFL has sold the rights to its chunk of cyberspace to ESPN in the latest link between two of sports’ major powers.

The deal was for three years. Figures weren’t announced, although reports have said that ESPN will pay the NFL at least $10 million.

Under the agreement, ESPN will produce material for the NFL’s Web site, NFL.com, although the exact content has yet to be determined. ESPN has been producing the site for the past two years, but it expects to add additional features under the new agreement.

``Someone’s going to figure out the best interactive application,″ said Tom Phillips of the ESPN Internet group. ``I can’t say we’ve cracked the code yet. But we’re going to put the best sports brains in a room over the next couple of months and see what we can come up with.″

One item unlikely to be on the site is real-time video play-by-play of NFL games, something that ESPN’s Web site has for both baseball and basketball. It will run a text play-by-play of games, as it did last season.

That’s because of the NFL’s broadcast contracts, including the television package, $17.6 billion over eight years from four networks, including ESPN.

The benefit to ESPN would come from selling advertising on its sites, including NFL.com. The NFL Web site is one of the most frequented among sports leagues, with an estimated 1.69 million visitors in the first three months of 1998.

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