SBJ/January 15 - 21, 2007/This Weeks News

Deal would put AFL games on NFL Network

A likely deal that would put AFL games on the NFL Network on Friday nights is in the works, however executives say the would-be partners still are battling over revenue splits and share of production costs.

“We know arena football isn’t something that is going to make a big cable operator suddenly pick up the NFL Network,” said an AFL source, “but they are spending millions on [college] bowl games, so we want to get something out of them.”

The AFL’s recent pact with ESPN had no rights fee, but included an equity stake in the AFL and had a carve-out allowing for AFL games on the NFL Network. An ESPN source suggested a deal with a national cable outlet other than the NFL Network is unlikely.

The party line from AFL spokesman Chris McCloskey is that the league is “negotiating with multiple networks for our Friday night and regional broadcasts.” NFL Network spokesman Seth Palansky would not comment.

“This is kind of like the NFL and L.A.,” said a source close to the negotiations. “They are better off together, but that doesn’t mean it will happen.”

Still, all sides suggest a deal between the two is almost certain to happen. It is hard to say who would benefit more, the AFL through the NFL Network’s incremental exposure on more than 40 million homes, or the NFL Network by acquiring additional out-of-season football programming to complement its schedule of NFL Europe contests.

Having completed its ESPN deal, the AFL is simply seeking more exposure and to take advantage of the NFL’s promotional machine, which could lead to a more formal designation as a developmental league for the NFL.

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