ESPN Cuts AOL Syndication Deal 'SportsCenter'

Sports cabler to distribute video clips through AOL and its partners

AOL and ESPN announced pact under which the Internet media company will offer a majority of the sports programmer’s digital video content, including news, highlights and analysis — but excluding live TV.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The companies said ad sales for the video content will be led by ESPN and revenue will be shared by both parties along with AOL’s syndication partners.

ESPN, majority-owned by Disney, will provide AOL with ESPN-branded video content from its “SportsCenter” highlights show franchise and other programs covering a wide array of sports. AOL will syndicate ESPN video content across both its owned-and-operated sites, including AOL.com and The Huffington Post, along its network of partners that includes 1,700 publishers and mobile phones, tablets and connected TV devices.

Live events, however, are not part of the deal. To watch ESPN’s live programming online or on mobile devices, fans must use the WatchESPN service, available only to subscribers of participating pay-TV affiliates.

Still, the pact is a big win for AOL’s online video efforts, which encompass several original series including the just-launched “Acting Disruptive.” ESPN also has distribution deals for online-video clips for Apple and Microsoft’s Xbox; in addition, the content being made available to AOL is available on ESPN.com and ESPN mobile platforms.

“AOL’s network will provide sports fans a truly engaging online experience with ESPN-produced and ESPN-branded premium video,” Matt Murphy, ESPN’s senior VP of digital video distribution, said in a statement. “We see a real opportunity in our ability to curate and syndicate locally relevant content to AOL’s vast network of local sites.”

AOL editors will work with ESPN to help program content across AOL’s network, to surface relevant ESPN clips to readers of text articles on both AOL and partners websites. The library of ESPN videos also will be available on a dedicated channel on the AOL On Network at on.aol.com/espn.

AOL began distributing the sports cabler’s content on Tuesday.

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