Network acquires minority stake in football league

ESPN has acquired minority ownership in the Arena Football League as part of a five-year agreement that includes extensive multimedia rights and a minimum of 26 televised games per season beginning next year.

Fifteen ESPN platforms will benefit from this agreement, including ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN on ABC.

ESPN also gains the right to both air and syndicate Arena Football League games through ESPN Intl.

Net will televise a minimum of 17 regular-season games and nine playoff games — including a minimum of three wild card games, three divisional playoff games, both conference championships and the Arena Bowl — on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC.

ESPN will also have an exclusive window for weekly Monday night primetime games on ESPN2.

ESPN’s AFL coverage kicks off March 4 on ABC with a pair of regional games, Chicago Rush at Kansas City Brigade and Dallas Desperados at New York Dragons. ABC will broadcast Arena Bowl XXI on July 29 from the New Orleans Arena.

ESPN previously televised Arena Football League regular season and playoff games from 1995-99 and most recently televised AFL playoff games from 2000-02. It also aired the inaugural Arena Bowl live in 1987, while ABC aired the Arena Bowl five consecutive years from 1998-2002.

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