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[12/19/06 - 02:34 PM]
ESPN Acquires Minority Stake in Arena Football Multimedia Rights and Minimum of 26 Television Games Per Season
ESPN will televise a minimum of 17 regular-season games and nine playoff games -- including a minimum three Wild Card games, three Divisional playoff games, both Conference Championships and the Arena Bowl -- on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC.

[via press release from ESPN]

ESPN ACQUIRES MINORITY STAKE IN ARENA FOOTBALL MULTIMEDIA RIGHTS AND MINIMUM OF 26 TELEVISION GAMES PER SEASON

ESPN has acquired minority ownership in the Arena Football League as part of a five-year agreement announced today that includes extensive multimedia rights and a minimum of 26 televised games per season, beginning in 2007. The agreement enhances ESPN�s year-round football programming lineup, the most comprehensive in sports television.

Similar to recent major ESPN content acquisitions, the agreement entails a broad range of rights. Fifteen ESPN platforms will benefit from this new agreement, including ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN on ABC, ESPN Classic, ESPN HD and ESPN2 HD; ESPN.com; Spanish-language ESPN Deportes; ESPN360 (the company's growing interactive and customizable broadband service); Mobile ESPN Publishing (the company's wireless content licensing business); ESPN Radio, ESPN The Magazine and other ESPN-branded services (i.e., iPod, video on demand). ESPN also gains the right to both air and syndicate Arena Football League games through ESPN International.

ESPN will televise a minimum of 17 regular-season games and nine playoff games -- including a minimum three Wild Card games, three Divisional playoff games, both Conference Championships and the Arena Bowl -- on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC. ESPN will also have an exclusive window for weekly Monday night primetime games on ESPN2 -- continuing to establish Monday night as a �football night� for fans.

ESPN�s 2007 AFL coverage will kick off on ABC with a pair of regional games -- Chicago Rush at Kansas City Brigade and Dallas Desperados at New York Dragons -- on Sunday, March 4 at 12:30 p.m. ET. ABC will broadcast ArenaBowl XXI on Saturday, July 29 at 3 p.m. from the New Orleans Arena as the city of New Orleans hosts the first team championship event since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. (ESPN�s entire 2007 AFL television schedule is listed below.)

�We are committed to the Arena Football League and its exciting brand of football. We will help grow the league across all of our multimedia platforms. As the league grows, so will our business, and we see a bright future for us both,� said John Skipper, executive vice president, content, ESPN.

Arena Football League Commissioner David Baker added, �This is the longest and most comprehensive media partnership in AFL history. ESPN�s brand is ingrained in sports fans, who watch, read and listen to its multiple media properties. Through its equity purchase, ESPN now owns a piece of the AFL and has the ability to provide exciting football content on Monday nights for fans on a year-round basis. There is no better partner to help grow the AFL into a leading global, multimedia property."

The addition of Arena Football League rights expands ESPN�s already extensive football programming line-up and gives the company a year-round schedule of games, news and information shows and other content highlighting the National Football League and Monday Night Football, the Arena Football League, college football, high school football and select youth football events.

ESPN previously televised Arena Football League regular season and playoff games from 1995-1999, and most recently televised AFL playoff games from 2000-02. It also aired the inaugural ArenaBowl live in 1987, while ABC aired the ArenaBowl five consecutive years from 1998-2002.

Often recognized as one of the nation's most affordable and fan-friendly sports leagues, the Arena Football League begins its 21st season in March with 19 teams as it enters a five-year media relationship with ESPN. On the strength of its Mission Statement and Fans' Bill of Rights, the AFL is the second-longest running football league in U.S. history.

2007 Arena Football League ESPN TV Schedule:

Date Teams Network Time

Regular season

Sun., March 4 Chicago at Kansas City Dallas at New York ESPN on ABC (regional) ESPN on ABC (regional) 12:30 p.m. 12:30 p.m.

Mon., March 12 Los Angeles at Orlando ESPN2 7 p.m.

Thurs., March 22 Colorado at Philadelphia ESPN2 7 p.m.

Mon., March 26 Dallas at Orlando ESPN2 7 p.m.

Sun., April 1 Los Angeles at Chicago ESPN2 1:30 p.m.

Mon., April 9 Georgia at Philadelphia ESPN2 7:30 p.m.

Mon., April 16 Philadelphia at Dallas ESPN2 8 p.m.

Mon., April 23 Philadelphia at Columbus ESPN2 7:30 p.m.

Mon., April 30 Philadelphia at Chicago ESPN2 8 p.m.

Mon., May 7 Colorado at Chicago ESPN2 8 p.m.

Mon., May 14 New York at Philadelphia ESPN2 7:30 p.m.

Mon., May 21 New Orleans at Philadelphia ESPN2 7:30 p.m.

Mon., May 28 New York at New Orleans ESPN2 8 p.m.

Mon., June 4 Colorado at Utah ESPN2 10:30 p.m.

Mon., June 11 Los Angeles at Arizona ESPN2 10 p.m.

Mon., June 18 Chicago at Colorado ESPN2 10 p.m.

Mon., June 25 Dallas at Colorado ESPN2 10 p.m.

Postseason

Fri., June 29 Wildcard ESPN 7 p.m.

Sat., June 30 Wildcard ESPN 12 p.m.

Sat., June 30 Wildcard ESPN 3 p.m.

Mon., July 2 Wildcard ESPN2 10 p.m.

Sat., July 7 Divisional Playoff ESPN 3 p.m.

Sat., July 7 Divisional Playoff ESPN 8 p.m.

Sun., July 8 Divisional Playoff ESPN2 9 p.m.

Mon., July 9 Divisional Playoff ESPN2 7:30 p.m.

Sat., July 14 Conference Championship ESPN 3 p.m.

Sun., July 15 Conference Championship ESPN2 12:30 p.m.

Sun., July 29 ArenaBowl XXI (New Orleans, La.) ESPN on ABC 3 p.m.

All times EST

* ESPN will have a minimum of three Wildcard games and three Divisional Playoff games





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