SBJ/January 24 - 30, 2005/This Weeks Issue

AFL adds TV deals for Canada, Europe

The Arena Football League opens its 2005 season on Friday with two new international broadcast deals to complement the league’s already beefed-up domestic programming package.

The AFL has signed a one-year deal with Canada’s Score Television Network to broadcast 20 regular-season games, and a two-year deal with the North American Sports Network that will broadcast up to 60 games throughout Europe.

League officials declined to disclose financial terms of the deals but said rights fees were part of the new agreements. The new partners will carry games using the feed of either NBC or Fox Sports Net, the league’s U.S. TV partners.

“To create this relationship with the Arena Football League is mutually beneficial for both of us,” David Errington, senior vice president of the Score Television Network, said in a statement.

The league also has renewed a deal with Japan’s Express TV that began in 2004, AFL officials said last week.

“The domestic [television market] is still the most important, but growing the game internationally is something we are looking to do,” said Marc Lowitz, president of the AFL Network, the broadcast division of the league’s office. “We’ve concentrated on the domestic deals for the past year, but we feel we’re in good shape.”

The AFL recently announced a deal with Fox Sports Net to increase regional cable broadcasts to 120 games this season, compared with 39 non-NBC games last year. The AFL-FSN partnership last year was handled by individual teams with their local-market RSNs. This year, it is a league-level relationship with the national FSN organization.

The AFL is starting its 19th season this year two weeks earlier than last year in hopes of taking advantage of heightened football interest surrounding the NFL’s Super Bowl. The league is marking the third season of its broadcast relationship with NBC by airing a game on Super Bowl Sunday at 1 p.m. ET, a first for the league.

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