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IBeam to Power Audio Webcasts of Vikings Games

In an attempt to expand their reach and generate additional revenue, the Minnesota Vikings have partnered with iBeam (www.ibeam.com) and local Minneapolis/ St. Paul radio station KFAN to broadcast all of their games this season over the Web. The audio-only broadcasts will be available on www.vikings.com. The Vikings are the first team to produce a broadcast specifically for the internet.

WCCO, the local CBS affiliate radio station in Minneapolis, owns the rights to the radio broadcast of the Vikings games under a contract that is five years old. The Vikings approached CBS with the idea that they would like to broadcast their games over the internet, and while their local affiliate station was receptive - CBS corporate in New York would not allow the deal. In order to stream their games on the internet, the Vikings found a loophole in their contract with CBS and partnered with KFAN.

"The shame is that WCCO advertisers are losing wide spread exposure, " said Mike Harmon, Director of Marketing with the Vikings. "During the game we received e-mail from all fifty states including one from the launch pad at Cape Canaveral. The reach is amazing."

The announcement signals a change in attitude - at least temporarily -- for the National Football League, which is traditionally very tight with its brand. The NFL framework was modified in April to accommodate audio webcasting. For the next 24 months, individual NFL teams will be allowed to determine their own policies regarding audio webcasting of their games. After this time, the NFL plans to develop a league-wide policy. In the meantime, the audio webcasts cannot conflict with any national radio broadcasting rights sold by the league, nor with any local agreements the team itself may have in place. Generally, a team partners with the radio station that owns the rights to their radio broadcasts, unless that station is a CBS affiliate.

The Vikings will use iBeam's On-Target ad insertion service to generate revenue through the Internet broadcasts. IBeam was also chosen by the Vikings for its network of "edge" servers. Connected via satellite and fiber-optic cable, this network is able to bypass Net congestion. IBeam is currently working to establish deals with several other NFL teams to provide similar services.

However, don't expect to see streaming video feeds of NFL games anytime soon. The NFL considers it beneficial to stream video of games to Europe and Asia, and is interested in streaming games to those regions as a trial and to help build a new fan base. But the body is reluctant to move toward Internet broadcast in the U.S. market - at least until the transmission quality rises to that of network television and satellite.

"We have many ways to reach our audience over media that delivers a solid experience," stated Evan Kamer of NFL.com.

For now, NFL fans living abroad - and far from their favorite teams - will have to settle for audio broadcasts.

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