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NFL Announces Agreement to Stream Games Overseas

The NFL (www.nfl.com) has announced that the next stage of its broadband distribution experiment will involve more widespread distribution of its games in overseas markets. The NFL has teamed up with Fantastic Entertainment ( www.fantastic.com) and GlobalMedia (www.globalmedia.com) to create the necessary services and technological expertise.

The NFL has actively explored Internet distribution within the United States, recently striking a deal with Yahoo! Broadcast to aggregate their audio streams. But the overseas market is proving to be the NFL's preferred testing grounds, as this protects revenue gained from lucrative television broadcast contracts.

The NFL is continuing forward with the broadband distribution of its games after testing out the technology last year. In Amsterdam, on the UPC/chello platform, NFL games were streamed live via cable modem. In Singapore, on Singtel Magix, NFL games were encoded and offered to subscribers on a video on demand basis throughout the week. Chello and SingTel continue to deliver NFL content to their broadband subscribers and the NFL will be announcing more broadband partners in November.

As a measure to avoid conflicts with existing television broadcast contracts, the new partners will not be in the Western hemisphere.

According to Brian McCarthy, spokesman for the NFL, the streams will initially be transmitted via satellite to the network hubs of the partner broadband providers, so as to avoid trafficking the Internet. Fantastic's technology will then be used to encode, encrypt and direct the content through the various closed-circuit broadband networks. GlobalMedia's technology is integrated into the user interface and enables various e-commerce applications.

The games will be streamed in their original form, including the original television commercials, but there will be the opportunity for banner advertising on the player. Nonetheless, McCarthy stated that the NFL is not expecting any substantial amount of revenue to be earned in the short-term from this initiative.

"The NFL is committed to extending the reach of its games to fans around the world and to promoting new technologies and new media to achieve that goal," said Tola Murphy-Baran, senior vice president of market development of the NFL. "NFL's highly desirable content will be an effective driver in the proliferation of broadband networks worldwide."

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