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NFL to audiocast games

The National Football League plans to make live audiocasts of most of its games available on the league Web site next season, as part of an initiative to unify its Internet strategy and boost its presence online.

NFL teams voted to establish the NFL Internet Network to centralize control of all multimedia, commerce and advertising. The initiative is intended to spawn new strategic relationships with Internet and broadcast companies, according to NFL Interactive Senior Vice President Chris Russo.

Audiocasts of the "vast majority" of NFL games will be available on the NFL site ( (opens in new tab)) each week. The games would probably be available for free, Russo says, depending on whether local radio rights deals permit it. Some team sites had previously audiocast their own games.

The National Basketball Association currently sells a season package of all game audiocasts on its Web site.

The audiocasting, based on local radio coverage, will be handled by the ESPN Internet Group, which currently produces the NFL site. Historic audio and archived replays also will be accessible on the league and team sites.

The NFL will also be distributing more video features from NFL Films to individual team sites as part of an online consolidation of content and assets. NFL Films will double its production of features for exclusive Internet distribution-player and team profiles-to 80 pieces weekly, according to Russo. "A lot of the video will reside on the club sites."

Some revenues from the NFL site and team sites will be pooled, excluding e-commerce revenues that the individual teams realize.

The NFL is actively seeking strategic partnerships with technology providers and other partners, Russo says. "We're taking all the content and assets we have online to be positioned for strategic relationships with third parties in the Internet or broadcasting world."

That could translate into redistribution of video or audio content or the creation of new Web sites.

The amount of video content on the NFL site will increase slightly, with a modest expansion of game highlights posted after all live broadcasts are concluded late Sunday night. The league is also looking to create action-simulation games on the site.

The NFL's consolidation of control over all Internet assets mirrors a similar off-season move by Major League Baseball.

The NFL's experiment with live broadband Webcasts of games overseas will continue next season, with plans to expand into new European venues with other carriers. Last season, selected NFL games were Webcast in The Netherlands and Austria through Chello Broadband, and in Singapore with Sing Tel Magix, a unit of Singapore Telecommunications.