NFL Network games on Internet TV next season

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NEW YORK -- The National Football League will offer all eight of its NFL Network telecasts this season via streaming video to a number of subscribers in an expansion of the test it did last year with Verizon's IPTV service, FiOS TV.

According to Brian Rolapp, senior vp of media strategy for the NFL, who spoke after the network's upfront presentation to advertisers Wednesday night, the streamed games will not be available to every one of the NFL Network's 42 million subscribers.

To qualify, the subscriber's MSO or other provider would have to meet certain penetration guidelines, and the subscriber would also have to have cable and Internet access from the same provider. The stream would be accessed from the provider's Web site.

In December, Verizon became the first ISP to deliver broadband distribution of live NFL Network games, including the league's regular-season Thursday and Saturday contests. There will be further enhancements to the streaming this year, including more camera angles, Rolapp said.

It wasn't clear how many providers would offer the streams by the time the NFL Network kicks off the second year of its Thursday-Saturday primetime package on Thanksgiving Night, Nov. 22, when the champion Indianapolis Colts visit the Atlanta Falcons.

During the upfront, execs said the league will launch a revamped NFL.com this summer as it takes production in-house following the expiration of its SportsLine deal. Rolapp said the site would feature video, much of it exclusive, on almost every page. It will also be the only place on the Internet for highlights of NFL games, NFL Network COO Kim Williams said.

NFL Network president Steve Bornstein and other execs appeared less combative than in the past regarding the sometimes contentious negotiations with holdout MSOs like Time Warner Cable and Cablevision. Bornstein said after the presentation that the channel was holding carriage discussions and was optimistic. He also said he was pleased with the level of distribution the network has achieved.

Williams and other execs and network personalities were quick to point out that the NFL Network, with original programming 52 weeks a year, is not just about the fall and early winter. The signature news show, "NFL Total Access," is on every weeknight.

Programming moves include the return of "NFL Playbook," which had recently been incorporated into "Total Access," and one more night of "NFL Replay" to make three nights of the best games replayed on the network. New for 2007 will be replays of playoff games and the Super Bowl.
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