Score one for AOL, winning online rights to ESPN clips

A syndication deal puts ESPN content -- such as SportsCenter clips and game highlights -- on AOL and associated sites. ESPN is selling ads and sharing the revenue.

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Joan E. Solsman
2 min read

AOL may be resisting the urge to spike the ball in the end zone after this score.

The online media company has sealed a partnership with ESPN to syndicated clips from the coveted sports network on AOL Web sites, including owned sites like Huffington Post, and onto connected devices through its AOL On app.

ESPN, which leverages its surfeit of sports coverage to extract higher payments from pay-TV distributors than any other channel, will arrange ads to accompany the ESPN-branded news, highlights, and analysis clips, which includes videos seen on SportsCenter and other ESPN programs. ESPN will share revenue from the ads with AOL, as well as with syndication partners.

AOL has been evolving into an ad-driven online media company under CEO Tim Armstrong, moving most aggressively into video ads for what Armstrong has highlighted as an area of rapid untapped growth. As it has built up the video side largely through its AOL On hub of current events and entertainment news videos, AOL in August eclipsed Facebook as the second most-viewed video site on the Web. Both trail Google's YouTube in the rankings by far.

The ESPN syndication deal adds a trove of high-quality sports content to the entertainment and news videos on which AOL already had a lock.

In addition to running on AOL.com and its owned and operated sites, the ESPN content will be distributed to a large network of partners, including 1,700 publishers, such as Cox, Gannett, and the Boston Globe.

"AOL's network will provide sports fans a truly engaging online experience with ESPN-produced and ESPN-branded premium video," Matt Murphy, ESPN senior vice president 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."

Content distribution began on Tuesday.