Weeks after losing its valued NASCAR cable deal, The
Nashville Network last week joined ESPN and ESPN2 in telecasting Arena Football League
games as part of a four-network, multiyear deal.
TNN will distribute around 14 weekly regular-season AFL
contests beginning in April 2000, while TNN, ESPN and ESPN2 will distribute about 11
playoff games, league representatives said. Broadcast network ABC will air the
league's Arena Bowl championship game Aug. 19.
AFL television consultant Neal Pilson valued the deal at in
excess of $25 million over a three-year period, which includes "traditional"
rights fees and marketing values.
"This is an opportunity to promote and grow our league
both domestically and, in the future, internationally," AFL commissioner David Baker
said. "We also believe that having our games live on four networks is a great way to
serve our fans."
The deal comes several weeks after TNN lost its marquee
National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing cable rights to Turner Sports and Fox
Sports Net, but Hall said the network's AFL deal was done prior to the NASCAR
"The AFL deal was important [with NASCAR], and
it's even more important now [without NASCAR], he said. "Arena Football has an
audience that draws the male demographic that we're trying to bring in, [and] I think
our audience will go nuts over the product."
Baker said the league chose TNN because of its ability to
build brands through aggressive marketing, such as its success with NASCAR and, more
recently, with Roller Derby, rodeo and Extreme Championship Wrestling.
"The promotional partnership with TNN is also a
tremendous opportunity to showcase the exciting brand of Arena Football to all sports
fans," said Mark Hamister, chairman of the AFL's Television and Marketing
TNN -- which signed a three-year deal with two one-year
options -- will create distinct and original pregame telecasts and game coverage, as well
as an informational halftime show, supported by an extensive promotional campaign, TNN
president David Hall said. "The plan is to take halftime and try to build more
knowledge of the sports and players," he added.
TNN will handle ad-sales efforts for its games, as well as
for those airing on ESPN and ESPN2, Hall added.
ESPN will continue its 11-year relationship with the AFL,
but it is taking a less prominent role in the league's cable-television plans.
Sources said the network -- which has a one-year deal with a one-year option -- would not
commit to the AFL's request for a weekly Thursday regular-season time slot due to its
other programming properties.
"The success that they've had over the years
didn't permit them to give us the [commitment] that we were looking for," Pilson
said. "[ESPN] will assist us in putting all playoff games on national
"We feel that the playoffs provide our viewers with
the Arena Football League's best action, and we're pleased to continue this
11-year relationship with a growing sport," ESPN vice president for programming Steve
Risser said in a prepared statement.