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IBM, which is sponsoring Superbowl.com for a second year, paid "an estimated" $1M to host the official game site, according to Mary Huhn of the N.Y. POST. Last year, Superbowl.com drew over 2 million page views on game day alone. Huhn adds that this year, there are 21 million households with Internet access, compared to 15 million a year ago, so companies "are expecting a dramatic increase in traffic." Superbowl.com will sell official game merchandise using IBM Net.commerce software for the first time. Huhn also previewed Super Bowl Internet plans for ESPN SportsZone and CBS.SportsLine (N.Y. POST, 1/22). USA TODAY noted that Superbowl.com will also allow fans to choose their own camera angles to receive updated photos of the game, including the one from the blimp (USA TODAY, 1/21).
WEB: NHL ICE announced NHL.com averaged nearly five million daily hits over All-Star Weekend (NHL ICE)....The Flyers' John LeClair has launched his own Web site at JohnLeClair.net. Proceeds from the site, which will be maintained and operated by PA-based sportslinc.com, will benefit the John LeClair Foundation in VT (aYs Sports Marketing)....Speedway Motorsports launched its Web site last week at www.speedwaymotorsports.com. The site was designed by Atlanta-based iXL (Speedway Motorsports). NOTE: The Phillies will name former P Larry Andersen to their TV-radio broadcast team today. He will replace the late Richie Ashburn (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 1/22).
Cable companies are "outraged" over last week's $17.6B NFL TV rights deal, according to Susan Slusser of the S.F. CHRONICLE. And there "have been suggestions among cable operators that ABC underpaid ($550 million a year) for 'Monday Night Football' while sister Disney company ESPN overpaid for Sunday-night rights ($600 million) -- so that the costs could be dumped onto cable customers." TCI CEO & President Leo Hindery: "I have it on pretty good evidence that they moved things from the left pocket to the right pocket. And nobody has proved to me that the Sunday-night package should be more expensive than the Monday-night package." A recent trade publication reported "an unnamed Disney executive, overheard at a party" as saying, "I called the NFL and said, 'Go easy on ABC and sock it to ESPN, because we can pass it on.'" ESPN VP/Sales & Marketing George Bodenheimer: "I read that, and it's inaccurate, to say the least. ... I don't think anyone puts stock in unattributed comments" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 1/22). RAISE RATES/DROP SERVICE? Hindery said cable operators feel "more and more entitled" to ask questions about the NFL deal, "because all we can do about it is drop the service or raise the rates." Slusser: "But what cable operator is going to drop ESPN? It is considered a must have outlet." ESPN's Bodenheimer: "Everyone would like to pay less for everything. But this is a good long-term investment for ESPN and for cable operators." He added ESPN will have more NFL programming to create ad opportunities for operators. Slusser adds that operators "might get a bit of a break from TNT, which reportedly is considering lowering its cable fees now that it no longer has the NFL" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 1/22).
NBC's Greg Gumbel, who will serve Sunday as the host of the Super Bowl, agreed to a five-year deal averaging $1.75M a year with CBS, according to USA TODAY. Gumbel will serve as CBS' No. 1 play-by-play man for AFC football, and will "probably" work with Phil Simms. NBC's Cris Collinsworth has agreed to a five-year deal with Fox "for about" $1M a year and will join its NFL pre-game show (USA TODAY, 1/22). UP CLOSE & PERSONAL: NBC "is promising an 'inside-the- helmet'" view on Sunday, as the net will utilize the latest in real-time 3D graphics, putting the viewer "behind the quarterback's face mask." Assisting NBC is CA-based Silicon Graphics Inc. (Glenn Lovell, SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 1/21). SAVE THE LAST DANCE FOR....: NBC will hold a "final fiesta" after its Sunday Super Bowl telecast, which will feature Donna Summer. In N.Y., Neal Travis reports that the post-game celebration is "appropriately" called "The 'Last Dance' Party" (Neal Travis, N.Y. POST, 1/22).