*NFL to Take November Games Overseas on Broadband
The NFL declined to name specific markets or the number of countries it plans to enter. Furthermore, the league wouldn't predict audience sizes or give a timetable for profitability concerning the venture.
Instead, league reps focused on the technology their firm would use to enter largely untested markets - insofar as they translate into audiences for American football - with a sports broadcasting platform still deemed as experimental.
"We don't expect the (Web broadcasts) to become a significant part of our revenue stream for some time to come," said Tola Murphy-Baran, senior vice president of market development for the NFL. "We also think it's going to take us some time to get our feet with subscribers."
Murphy-Baran said most Internet sports broadcasts so far have lacked the NFL's multiple-point broadband technology designed to create streamed video with a resolution comparable to TV.
In addition, the league was encouraged by test webcasts in Singapore and Amsterdam last year.
"The Amsterdam test was full screen and the audio and video synced perfectly," said Brian McCarthy, NFL spokesman. "It was only open to subscribers of the service so exact numbers are hard to come by, but technically it went off without a hitch. It gave us a great experience in knowing what will work in the future."
The service offers viewers several interactive features, such as the ability to watch two games at once. Viewers also will be able to access and read text explanations of game rules while they watch.
To make the service possible, the NFL penned agreements with multimedia services firm Fantastic Entertainment, Switzerland, and Internet streaming technology firm GlobalMedia.com, New York. Terms of the agreement were not announced.
Murphy-Baran said the venture will generate revenue with ads, pay-per-view subscriptions and team/league merchandise that will be offered throughout the broadcasts.
The Internet broadcasts will eventually become profitable because of the league's ability to change markets, she said. Historically, Murphy-Baran said, the league has proven its marketing prowess by lifting the ratings of ESPN and the once-fledging Fox Television network.
She also cited market research predictions that have the international broadband audience increasing to more than 32 million users by 2003 as proof that the venture could succeed.