Sports network to funnel Video, Sports content

ESPN has engineered its first Internet-portal deal, agreeing to funnel short-form content to AOL Video and AOL Sports.

Network plans to offer lots of highlights from games and other sporting events, plus clips of ESPN’s original programming.

Matt Murphy, senior VP of digital-video distribution for ESPN, stressed the benefit to viewers, who’ll have more opportunities to watch the network’s programming, and to advertisers, who’ll be able to tap into a much bigger online-video audience for ESPN’s branded sports shows. The short-form content on AOL will be ad-supported.

For Kevin Conroy, executive VP of AOL, the deal continues AOL’s drive to sign up program suppliers. The portal has deals with all the Big Four broadcast networks, plus a multitude of cable networks including USA, FX, E!, Sci Fi Channel, Showtime, Oxygen, TV Guide Channel and Fox Reality Channel.

In the ESPN initiative, AOL subscribers will be able to get “SportsCenter Right Now,” a two-a-day capsule of breaking news, highlights and stories. Also in the mix are excerpts of such shows as “Mike & Mike in the Morning,” “Pardon the Interruption” and “Around the Horn.” AOL’s embedded ESPN video player will also provide links to content on ESPN.com related to the videos.

ESPN’s content will be featured on AOL Video’s channel tab on the portal’s homepage.

Overall, ESPN.com is the most popular online sports operation, where people called up videos more than 1.2 billion times last year, a 54% increase from 2006.

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