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NBC Snares Arena Football from Cable

One professional-sports league cable networks won't be airing beginning next
year is the Arena Football League, as NBC acquired television rights to the
indoor-football franchise Tuesday as part of a 'revenue-sharing' deal.

ESPN and TNN: The National Network will lose their rights to air AFL games
beginning with the 2003 season, although sources said neither network is stewing
over the failure to retain games that weren't generating blockbuster
ratings.

For the upcoming season, TNN will televise 12-regular season games, while
ESPN and ESPN2 are slated to air a total of five playoff games. Broadcast
network ABC will carry the AFL championship game.

Next year, the indoor league will move its traditional early spring-summer
schedule to a midwinter-spring session to accommodate NBC.

NBC will produce four regional games per week over the course of a 15-week
regular season beginning in February 2003. The network will also televise all
postseason games and the league's ArenaBowl title game.

The multiyear agreement calls for NBC to gain an equity stake in the league
-- in which AFL owners own nine of the 16 teams -- as well as to share in the
revenues derived from the value of AFL franchises.

NBC will use the AFL to try to fill the void from its recent losses of
National Football League and National Basketball Association broadcast rights,
as well as the failure of the World Wrestling Federation Entertainment
Inc.-backed XFL.

'This is a way out of the valley of write-offs and losses that have dominated
our [sports] business over the past few years,' NBC Sports and Olympics chairman
Dick Ebersol said.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.