NFL ready to call own Web plays

League decides not to renew deal with Sportsline

The NFL is taking control of its digital destiny.

League’s owners group approved a decision Tuesday not to renew its deal with CBS Sportsline to manage its online presence.

In 2001, the NFL signed a deal with Sportsline, then an independent company, to run its Web site for five years. At the time, deal was reported to be worth $120 million.

Pact expired in May. NFL then contracted with CBS Sportsline to produce the site for one more season, though the league has already started to sell its own Internet ads and is paying the Netco for its services.

At the end of this season, however, the league will take over NFL.com itself. It is planning a relaunch, expected to include significantly more video, in the spring.

Decision is part of a larger trend by sports leagues to take their Web presence, and accompanying revenue, inhouse. Major League Baseball has had significant success with its Web presence, which includes a subscription service to watch games on the Net.

NFL can’t show games on its own Web site, though it will likely push for those rights in future negotiations with networks.

League has also been generating more of its own TV revenue recently with its launch of the NFL Network three years ago. Net reaches more than 40 million subscribers and has just signed a long-term deal to carry live regular-season NFL games. The NFL game package has allowed the network to more than double the license fees it charges cable operators and satellite distributors.

(John Dempsey in New York contributed to this report.)

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