ESPN Acquires AFL Stake

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ESPN acquired minority ownership in the Arena Football League as part of a five-year agreement announced Tuesday.

The pact includes extensive multimedia rights and a minimum of 26 televised games per season -- a minimum of 17 regular-season contests and nine playoff games, including a minimum three wild-card games, three divisional playoff match-ups, both conference championships and the Arena Bowl -- on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC beginning in 2007.

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

ESPN said the deal covers a broad range of rights among its 15 platforms, including ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN on ABC, ESPN Classic, ESPN.com, Spanish-language ESPN Deportes and ESPN360.

The sports programmer also received the right to both air and syndicate AFL games through ESPN International.

“We are committed to the Arena Football League and its exciting brand of football," ESPN executive vice president for content John Skipper said in a prepared statement. "We will help to grow the league across all of our multimedia platforms. As the league grows, so will our business, and we see a bright future for us both.”

AFL commissioner David Baker added, “This is the longest and most comprehensive media partnership in AFL history. ESPN's brand is ingrained in sports fans, who watch, read and listen to its multiple media properties. Through its equity purchase, ESPN now owns a piece of the AFL and has the ability to provide exciting football content on Monday nights for fans on a year-round basis.”

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